Thursday, March 28, 2013

Gorilla Babies are Small

Mature gorillas are big

As much as I visit gorillas, I can't get over the size. Here is a photo which shows how small Bomassa is, relative to his mother. Just her head alone was bigger than all of him, when I took this photo a few months back. And you can see that her hand is huge as well, much bigger than any human hand, and way greater than Bomassa's entire leg. But this will change quickly in the coming years. When Bomassa is all grown up, he's likely to be about twice as big as his mother.
Jamani Gorilla holds Son Bomassa
Jamani is still holding onto that leg much of the time, by the way, when she is out in the open with her son. That way she can keep the boy gorilla nearby so that she can protect him if necessary.  Interestingly, the keepers tell me that when Jamani and Bomassa are secure in their sleeping quarters, she lets him go entirely free. He becomes a bouncing terror on the climbing structures he has access to back there.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Little Bite of a Gorilla

Bomassa Gorilla of the North Carolina Zoo

hangs on to mother Jamani's back while the silverback saunters over and takes the better part of Bomassa's rump in his mouth. This apparently is one of the many ways Daddy Gorilla Nkosi shows affection for his sons. Olympia walks by in the background, and you can just barely see the head of Apollo as she holds him with her right arm.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Willie B from Zoo Atlanta, Sire to Five Gorillas

Kudzoo, Kidogo, Sukari, Lulu and Olympia

are the five surviving children of the late and deeply loved Willie B of Zoo Atlanta.  Still living in Georgia's signature zoo,  Kudzoo is mother to  Mary B and Merry Leigh, while Sukari,  who lives there too,  and happens to be expecting,  is mother to Gunther.  These three gorilla children, and the one on the way, are cousins to North Carolina Zoo's Apollo, son of Olympia.   And now, Lulu, youngest daughter of Willie B, and thus sister to Olympia, has a baby too! This of course means yet another little cousin for our own young Apollo. The gender of the baby, unknown for now, will come to light as the keepers are able to get a better look. Zoo personnel do not interfere too much with the mother's natural instincts to look after and protect her newborn every minute of the day. Check out the photo of the capable new mom in this Atlanta Journal Constitution article. Lulu looks a great deal like Olympia if you ask me!

ZooBabyBlog is on Google Plus
Born August 31, of 2012, Apollo is just over six months old. You might think his young age explains why he is still riding on the back of his mother, but he is likely to keep up the riding for a few years yet. Lulu's baby surely already has the strength to hang on and ride; that crucial survival ability develops in the first few days of the life of a healthy gorilla baby.
Apollo Gorilla, safe on Olympia's back

As gorillas move through the forest, the little ones just climb right up on the mom, or when they are very small, the mom lifts and places the baby on her back.  Those infants know how to hang on to mother's fur with a vice-like grip. Gorilla troops can hike a pretty fair distance in a day, looking for the best available food sources. Riding mom is a convenient way to get around, not to mention a safe method!  Could there be a place more secure for a baby gorilla, than stuck on to his mother?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mama's Boy

Long gorilla arms

As do all baby gorillas, Bomassa has some pretty long arms. And his mom is graced with two hefty legs, of considerable girth. Using both of those long (and muscular!)  arms, he is grabbing onto Jamani's leg as tight as tight can be. He will not let her go. But she is bee-lining over to some food she wants to pick up, and she is not stopping for anything.

Bomassa's on Twitter
So he is trying his darndest to scurry along with those little feet of his!  It's funny, because half the time he is trying hard to get away from his mom, even to the point of biting her when she won't let him venture over and play with his half-brother Apollo.  Why, you might ask, does he not just let go? At six months old, he just wants to feel safe, and if there is one thing Bomassa knows, it's that he can count on his mama to provide protection.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Furry Gorilla Jumble of Arms and Legs

Two baby gorillas touching!

Rarely do I get to see both the baby gorillas together, but on my last trip out to the North Carolina Zoo, there was a great jumble of sixteen gorilla limbs,  underneath the window as mothers Olympia and Jamani huddled close together, during their midday nap.  They were still keeping those babes under wraps, mind you, but were allowing them to reach out and touch each other. Exciting stuff.

For more gorilla news, follow along on Facebook.

Jamani had her hand on Apollo's head for a a bit,  and Olympia rested her hand on Jamani's foot.  Jamani was okay with that, as long as she, Jamani, could keep a hand on top of Olympia's. Eventually Olympia's hand started to reach towards Bomassa. New readers of this blog might be interested to know that Olympia once took Bomassa away from Jamani and nursed him for almost a week. Jamani, always  wary of a repeat occurrence,  just wrapped Bomassa up a little closer to her chest and turned over and faced the wall and went back to sleep.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Toileting Habits of Gorillas

More than you ever wanted to know about gorillas

Everything goes in the mouth these days as infant gorillas Bomassa and Apollo develop their teeth. Usually Bomassa sports a more docile expression, but I happened to catch him just as he was trying to do some damage to this branch. The boys are practicing using their hands, and manipulating whatever they can pick up. And seriously, almost everything does indeed end up in the mouth.


If you look very closely at the lower photo, you might be able to discern what Bomassa is exploring with his tongue. Daddy Gorilla Nkosi seems to have made the boy a little present and apparently is quite proud of his son for investigating properly! LOL! Truth be told, Bomassa does not seem to be swallowing. He is just chewing it up and spitting it out again. Is there a danger of illness? The keepers tell me no, not really. I specifically asked if E. Coli is a concern, but no, the intestines of the gorilla don't tend to harbor that particular germ.

The gorillas pay no particular attention to where they make their deposits, by the way. Whereas some animals are very careful about where they drop, and try to keep their eating and sleeping areas clean, gorillas just go whenever and wherever they gotta. Often they are eating when they urinate. And the ladies will definitely urinate right near the straw they nap in.  Nkosi tends to use the grass area for defacating, while the ladies often make in the small pond, for some unknown reason. And the babies? Well you have seen how they spend their days, they ride on their mother's backs much of the time. And yeah, that is where they go, right on mama's fur. What we mothers go through for our children!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Baby Gorilla Learning

As the great Yogi Berra once said, You can observe a lot just by watching. That's how we learn as children, and gorilla babies do the same. Bomassa spends his days hanging out right by his mom and watching her closely. He looks to her to find out what to eat and how to do it.  He also learns what is acceptable behavior. 

Yes, gorillas have a social code just as we do. Bomassa is learning all about when to use certain facial expressions, how to gesture with his hands and even when and how to give signals with his eyes. And he's definitely learning about when it's okay to huddle up next to another gorilla.  He may look like he's  just sitting there being cute, but no, his mind is going a mile a minute as he processes how to grow into a capable adult gorilla.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Gorilla Love

Here's the mom, the dad and the baby! If you hang out enough with gorillas, you'll get to see some precious moments. As we've reported in the past, Daddy Gorilla Nkosi does not spend a great deal of time with the other members of the family, but when he does, he makes it count. He ambled over for a visit with Olympia while Apollo was sleeping on her chest. She stood up and they embraced. Gotta love how little Apollo just keeps clinging right through this whole episode!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Gorilla Social Structure-the Father

The role of the father in the gorilla troop
Nkosi Gorilla takes excellent care of his two sons. He checks in on them every so often to be sure all is well.   Pictured here,  he is stopping by to visit briefly with Jamani's Bomassa.  Towering over, he reached down to look  his boy  right in the eye.  See the enlargement below. What a look of awe on Bomassa's tiny young face!

What else does the father do? As silverback, Nkosi mediates disputes between the females. Each of them has a stronger connection with him, than she has with the other ladies. These days, Oympia is still coming after Jamani to try and get hold of Bomassa's little leg and cart him away. When Nkosi observes this, he usually comes over to intervene.

Were the troop living in the wild, Nkosi would be the protector of the entire troop and would threaten intruders by charging towards them,  or by beating his chest.

He would decide the travel arrangements of the troop and would keep them moving through the forest to find a good food source for the day.  But here in the Forest Glade, plentiful food is  provided. Be there at 11:30 or 1:30 to observe the feeding fest. The keepers go up on top of the rock wall and hurl vegetables down. It's quite a sight to see. Nkosi Gorilla always positions himself right underneath and makes sure to grab some of the best and biggest morsels for himself. After all, he has 410 pounds to nourish.