Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Would You Let Your Sixteen Month Old Climb this Structure?

Baby gorilla climbs alone!

Bomassa has been climbing for months now, and Apollo started not long after. But here's something I had never seen before!  Little 21 pound Apollo is at the top of the structure, and mother Olympia is nowhere to be seen. She is not on the structure. She is not seated at the bottom of the structure, she is not anywhere around. She is not looking, she is not concerned.  She was resting under the shelter. It was a rainy day and a bit chilly, so she was spending a good part of the day curled up and keeping warm. Apollo had plenty of energy and was tired of lying around, I guess. So he headed over and bounded right up, and just kept right on going until he got to the very top.

See the raindrops dripping off the log in the picture below? Don't worry, it's probably not slippery. That structure is built to be safe under all conditions. But what a terrific training ground for the babies. It provides some challenges, and obviously mother Olympia has faith in her sixteen month old boy to let him climb when she is not right there watching.

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Look at Apollo's face as he works hard to hang on to the log. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

North Carolina Zoo Closed Today

The North Carolina Zoo is closed one day a year, and this is it, so if you're on your way out, you might want to turn around now. If you were going to go and visit the baby gorillas today, however,  they would look a little something like this, only a smidge bigger. These photos were taken a few weeks ago, but baby gorillas really don't grow all that fast. Enjoy!  Merry Christmas!

Apollo looking cute

More baby gorilla photos here

Bomassa and his big brown eyes

Sunday, December 22, 2013

How Long Do Baby Gorillas Nurse?

Baby gorillas need their moms for quite a long while. 

At the North Carolina Zoo, Apollo and Bomassa were both nursing when I visited recently. Nursing seems to be particularly comforting to them on a chilly rainy day, and they will most likely continue to nurse until they are a good two years of age. They may not give it up until they get close to three years old.
Bomassa takes a nice long drink at the age of 16 months
Jamani looks around as her son snuggles close

Monday, December 16, 2013

Why are some bales of hay rectangles and others round?

Hay bales? Who knows and who cares? Baby gorillas don't. They just like to roll around in the stuff. Here's Apollo, having a little fun. Just now finding us? If you've missed one or two entries, you can catch up on Apollo by clicking here for about a dozen or so articles about the little tyke.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How Can you Replace a Silverback?

That's a tall order. Finding a new silverback is particularly hard when the individual in question was as popular and loving as Nkosi, dad to Apollo and Bomassa.  As you'll recall, Nkosi was overwhelmed by and died from a massive bacterial infection just after the boys turned a year old. Things appear to be going well at the North Carolina Zoo now, and everyone is getting along pretty well. But it's not natural for female gorillas to live together and raise their baby boys absent a silverback. Zoos try very hard to replicate the conditions found in the wild, and therefore, it will be important to find a mature adult male at some point, and bring him to the zoo to join the troop. As of now, the timing has not been decided, but research is underway.

Unreplaceable! Nkosi gave a ride to his son Apollo. A very rare occurrence among silverbacks

Many factors will go into this decision, including genetics, temperament, age, availability and more. In order to preserve the option of further breeding, it will be important to bring in a male unrelated to at least some of the females. You can see by looking at the family trees of all the NC Zoo gorillas, that this was taken into account in the past. Acacia Gorilla's family tree shows every one of her forebears, all the way back to those gorillas originally brought in from the wild.  We've already done a tree for Bomassa, and one for Apollo. Each of those, in turn, incorporates the family tree of their father, Nkosi, and also of their respective moms. 

If you look at all three charts, which you can do right here in this set at Flickr, you will find no repetitions whatsoever, other than of course, the fact that our little gorilla boys Apollo and Bomassa share their paternal side. The three female gorillas at the North Carolina Zoo are not in any way related to each other, but more importantly, none of them was related to Nkosi, who was brought in specifically for babymaking! Careful planning went into making sure that no inbreeding would result from any of the potential matches. But there are other considerations, as well. For example, all the gorillas in the reconstituted troop need to be able to get along well. It will take quite a while for the NCZoo and the volunteers at the Gorilla Species Survival Plan to find the right silverback. No matter who they settle on, he will never truly replace the beloved Nkosi, but hopefully things will go well for all concerned.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Apollo Beats his Chest

Apollo Gorilla of the North Carolina Zoo, is not quite fifteen months old in this recent photo, yet he's feeling particularly frisky. At the very same time that he's beating his chest, he's got his left foot wrapped around a big stick. At the end of that stick are about a dozen twigs full of leaves. He keeps taking that branch and motoring over towards Bomassa. He then threatens his big brother with the branch.

Even baby gorillas have oversized hands

It looks something like what Jane Goodall describes when she speaks of a chimpanzee shaking a branch one of his fellow chimps. It all seems to be part of establishing dominance. But at fifteen months old? Interesting to see this happening when the boys are both so young. Don't miss Deborah Meyers' article about the boys which ran recently in the Chapel Hill News and the Raleigh News&Observer.