Thursday, August 29, 2013

What Baby Gorillas Eat

The baby gorillas at the North Carolina Zoo eat all the same things their parents like--salad veggies and fruits. Bomassa is a big fan of green pepper, and Apollo loves carrots. That's his dad's favorite. These items are cut into pieces and scattered about the area, along with celery and nutritious varieties of lettuce and other things.

Our baby gorilla boys love kiwi the best, but it's hard to get a photograph of a baby gorilla eating kiwi fruit, as that is a special treat reserved for training times.  At the North Carolina Zoo, training happens in view of the visitors, but right now it's hard for the visitors to get a closeup look at the training.

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The keepers use kiwi as a reward when the babies allow them to clip their nails or to do various things necessary during medical checkups. If you are at the zoo when one or more of the gorillas heads over to one of the little cave areas which has a big grate across it, they might be over there hoping for a bite of kiwi.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Gorilla Roll Call at the North Carolina Zoo

If there was such a thing as gorilla roll call, it might have gone something like this yesterday morning, with the visitors calling the names, and the gorillas answering back:

Oh, yes, we see you slinking off near the wall.

All righty, no need to be so grouchy this morning.

Bomassa! Ah, sticking with your mom today, I see you clutching onto Jamani's back. Present. Good.

Acacia! Acacia! Where's Acacia? You can go ahead and take that lettuce in the straw, under the glass. Don't be so timid.

How about little Apollo? Right!  Apollo, we see you, your mom just scooped you up.
Present. Good, all ladies and babies accounted for.

And where's our big man?
N'kosi! N'kosi!
N'kosi!  Where's N'kosi? Where's our silverback today?

N'kosi did not come out Monday to join the rest of the troop. At first we visitors heard there might be some medical tests underway. This is quite routine and happens on a regular schedule. Excellent preventative care is administered by on site corps of veterinarians. But later we heard that N'kosi was under observation. That could mean just about anything. We are not sure if he was hurt, or if he had come down with an illness (gorillas can get colds and flu just as we do). Or maybe he had a little problem with some routine testing and did not bounce back right away. We just don't know. We did not observe any frantic activity among the zoo staff. A team of vets walked in, stayed awhile, and walked out again, quite calmly.  So it's probably not anything particularly worrying.

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But just try telling that to our Gorilla Ladies! They're not buying it. Monday, they acted as I have never seen them act before. They normally emerge in the morning, roam around for awhile in a very relaxed manner, pick up some food, and head over to an area prepared with straw. That's where they lie down and have a nap. Today, they did a very small amount of roaming, and never came over to lie down in the straw. Instead they stayed near the door for most of the day. That's the doorway  way back in the rear, from which N'kosi might emerge. During the short times that the ladies were roaming, they were skittish, nervous, looking over their shoulders at each other. The moms were keeping their babies very close, and the babies were making sure to stay close, too. Here's Apollo in the middle of a running jump. His mom is moving off, and he is building up the power to catch her and jump on her back so he can go too.

When the ladies came out, they did not seem very hungry and did not pursue their typical routine of gathering food. In fact at the end of the day, some of the lettuce lying near the window was still there, untouched. Jamani could be seen holding her son Bomassa, and walking a sideways crab walk, with her back to the wall as she headed toward one of the cave type doorways. Those are small areas where the gorillas can feel protected. Olympia normally lets Apollo roam nearby. But today she picked him up more than once and carted him off. Several times, she appeared to charge Acacia. When a gorilla charges, he or she runs past another gorilla. The idea is to scare, not to harm. And Acacia, when she wanted to go somewhere, would run. There seems to be a very big difference between an aggressive charge, and a scared evasive maneuver. On a normal day, our little Acacia would just walk calmly to her destination, but not Monday. No, Monday, she felt impelled to drum up the energy to run past the other ladies.  Acacia came over to the straw a few times, but never lay down. She would pick up some of the food which was lying there, but would look around very carefully before doing so.

Why? What was happening? Social structure. The gorillas depend profoundly on the social structure of the troop. The silverback is the lynchpin of that dynamic. In addition to breeding, and keeping his family members safe from outsiders, it's N'kosi's job to enforce peace within the troop. When he is not around, the ladies start to get nervous about interference from the other ladies. They just can't relax and be themselves when something is amiss. Plus, I wouldn't be surprised if they are just worried about their Number One. No one can read the mind of a gorilla, but the fact that all the ladies spent most of the day quite close to the backstage doorway makes me think maybe they were missing him and wanted to stay as near as possible hoping to find out soon that N'kosi is all right.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gorilla Kiss

Social structure is everything when it comes to gorillas. And Olympia is the dominant female in the troop at the North Carolina Zoo. So I was surprised to see her allowing her son Apollo to go over and play kissy face with Jamani! Mother Olympia Gorilla is not even concerned. For a moment there, it looked like she was going to reach out her hand and put a stop to this, but no. She drew back her hand and just sat there nonplussed as Apollo got closer and closer to his Auntie Jamani. Olympia does not tend to get too fussed about what either of the kiddies are doing.

More photographs of the baby gorillas.
Jamani of course has her own son, Bomassa, who has just turned a year old. And he is not far away. He is just out of view in this photo, right behind Jamani's head. He's just about to reach out his hand towards his little half-brother, almost as if to try and separate Apollo from his mom. At one point, Bomassa opened up that toothy mouth of his and got a little biting action in. But Apollo ignored it all, and just kept on communing with Jamani. Eventually they reached out and kissed by touching their lips together. This touching of lips is a frequent occurrence among our North Carolina gorillas. They are sweet animals. It's fun to be able to photograph the ways gorillas show affection for each other.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Eyelashes a Mile Long

Apollo was having a low key day last week when I went out to see him at the North Carolina Zoo, where I go weekly for my fix of cute baby gorilla photographs. He was busy with a couple of jobs, one of which was to point his finger and try to touch some of the beetles which had landed on the frame surrounding the glass. Bomassa came to help, but it was not working. No matter how many times the baby gorilla boys reached for those bugs, the beetles flew away. The two gorilla brothers were also fascinated with the slick that had formed when some rain had gotten onto the rocks under the overhang. Raindrops mix with the soil there. That makes a little mud that's fun to poke at and swish around. Baby gorillas are curious about the world, always investigating, always learning. In this photo, Apollo is looking down, doing one of those activities, not sure which. But I thought you would like to see how long this beauty boy's eyelashes are! 
Apollo Gorilla 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Chillin' Gorillas

Baby Bomassa Gorilla and Silverback N'kosi hang out on a hot summer's day

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Slilverback Gorilla Gets a Present

N'kosi got presents at  the baby gorilla birthday party this past weekend. He is the dad, after all, so he was absolutely central to the fact that we have two adorable little baby boy gorillas at the NC Zoo. Here he is, looking like he is getting ready to catch one of his presents. He did not really catch it, he just let it fall nearby. Nothing was going to happen to that box. It's not like N'kosi had to worry that anyone would take it. His food is thrown directly to him, and the ladies' food is thrown to a different area. The lady gorillas know not to mess with the silverback's provisions. Sharing is not a strong suit of the gorilla!

Someone had wrapped up a bunch of boxes and in beautiful paper. The keepers threw them down into the area, from the feeding platforms. For a minute, we onlookers thought our gorillas were going to be feasting on Ritz Crackers and breakfast cereal. When the gorillas ripped off the paper, you could see the markings on some of the boxes and one of them said Ritz Crackers on it.  It's the perfect weight of cardboard for this purpose.  The gorillas ripped those boxes right apart and found their treats with no problem at all and gobbled them up.  Inside were some loose carrots (N'kosi's favorite) and some popcorn.

Photographs of Baby Gorillas 

Flashback! This article has photographs of both boy gorillas when they were very small. At that time, I was totally unable to tell them apart.

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Birthday Party for the Baby Gorillas

There was a big party at the zoo. Bomassa and Apollo both turn one year old this month, so the zoo had a big bash, complete with a lovely cake and streamers decorating the tree. The keepers came out and set everything up. And then the gorillas came out and had their party. You may have read about all this over at Bomassa's Twitter.

A huge crowd was on hand to watch the gorillas get their treats. 
Look at the lovely cake, made with ice and vegetables!  Nkosi the silverback came out last. Tell us in the comment section why you think that was!

Bomassa's having a go at the carrots. They're  a little hard to get at because they have been frozen in ice for a few days. It took a long time for zoo personnel to get ready for this party. 
The top of the cake featured a gigantic ONE carved of watermelon. Apollo worked at that for awhile and got a few licks here and there. 
Music was presented by Healing Force. It was not clear whether it would bother the gorillas, but they took no notice, while the crowd enjoyed it immensely.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Happy Birthday Bomassa!

And Good Job, Jamani

Today, August 4th, marks  the first birthday for Bomassa Gorilla, first gorilla born at the North Carolina Zoo since 1989. Jamani has done a terrific job with her son this entire year. Here they are, both enjoying their birthday cake at a celebration held yesterday.
Tomorrow look for more photos of the party right here. Follow Twitter for an alert.

Read all about Bomassa's ups and downs throughout the year. Here's a link to each post we've written about him here at his blog, the only blog chronicling an entire year of development of two baby gorillas.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

In which the boys get a car for their birthday

Buy the Kids a Shiny Toy and They'll Play with the Box

It's time for a birthday! Bomassa Gorilla turns a year old on August 4th.   So that means presents. You know how it goes with kids though.  We try to get them things in the colors and shapes they should love, but our curious and intelligent children would rather play with something more ordinary.
There's something red and yellow and new in the gorilla area these days. What's that look like to you? I am pretty sure it's a little red car. I could not get a great look. Is it driveable? I think it probably is, but I can't say for sure.

Anyway, Bomassa and Apollo were not the least bit interested. I never saw either one of them go anywhere near the thing last Thursday when I went out to visit them.  Yes, it would have been terribly cute to get a shot of Apollo or his big brother sitting in that car and trying to steer it around. In fact, that's why the car was there. People in charge of publicity for the zoo were kind of hoping to get a nice shot of the kids in the car, lol.

But alas, as you already know, our eager gorilla boys spent a good part of the day practicing their climbing skills.  And then Bomassa turned to the mud, of all things! Between a high tree to climb and gooey mud, a cute little car just did not stand a chance.

With our recent nonstop North Carolina rains, the Forest Glade exhibit is quite muddy in places. Bomassa found some mud which had begun to dry out a little and had a ball messing around with it. He combed through it, and picked it up and made it into clumps. As a matter of fact, as you can see at this link, he rubbed some in the hair on his head and just generally enjoyed himself.

Car? There's a car to play with? Never mind that, I've got mud!

Bomassa Gorilla and Apollo will have their  first birthday party this Saturday, August 3rd at the North Carolina Zoo. Come if you can, it's going to be a lot of fun.