Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gorilla Friends

A New Bag and a Friend for Acacia Gorilla

Acacia is sporting a sack on her back. On burlap bag day, she loves to pick up one of the bags and throw it over the top of her head, or over her back, and walk around with it.  The bags are part of a rotation of enrichment devices. Each day the gorillas come out and find some things to play with. They each seem to have their favorites. N'kosi used to like to sit in the big tubs. And the boys like the rings. Acacia loves those bags.

Acacia, center comes to visit Jamani, left. Bomassa is over on the right edge

But that's not the big news. Even more fascinating during my visit last week, was Acacia's friendship with Jamani. Something of a loner, Acacia is constantly on the outs with Olympia, the dominant female in the troop. But Acacia gets along fabulously with young Bomassa. And here she is nosing up to Bomassa's mother Jamani. This was such a treat to see!  Jamani is relaxing in the pond, near her boy. She is munching on grasses and leaves when Acacia comes over to play kissy face. Acacia hung out for a good little while and the two ladies seemed to be enjoying each other's company.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Gorillas Playing Chase

Squabbling Gorilla Brothers

we have seen a-plenty, but now the boys are starting to chase each other and having a lot of fun doing it. The pond is drained, and inside the pond is a big rock. Sometimes the entire family likes to gather there on the curved floor of the empty pond. Last week, the boys were having fun chasing each other around the rock. I managed to catch Bomassa's expression just as he realized Apollo was going to come after him.
Bomassa peers at his little brother

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Gorilla Boy with No Fear

Apollo Gorilla jumps right in

He still is loving to go bother his brother, who still generally hangs out near mom. Here you see the back of the daring boy. He has just jumped on top of Bomassa who is snuggling with Jamani. The fearless younger brother Apollo got a little frisky, apparently, because Jamani is using both of her big feet to grab hold of Apollo's little foot. She did not succeed in keeping him at bay, and ended up standing up trying to fend Apollo off. She smacked at his face a few times, but desist he did not. So she grabbed Bomassa and ran off with him in search of some peaceful corner. It will be fascinating to watch how Jamani manages when Apollo is older, bigger, and stronger.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Essence of Gorilla Beauty

Acacia has such a beautiful face. She is very friendly to the visitors and often comes close to check people out.  She is still on the outs with Olympia. She gingerly moved over to where a lot of straw was lying. Suddenly she grabbed a big pile, and ran off like a shot, so fast that I could not even capture the action. It almost seemed like she is nervous that Olympia would have something to say about this. But Olympia and the other gorillas were off nosing around in the weeds and probably did not even see Acacia making her grab for the straw.
Acacia Gorilla, born January 14, 1995

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Ring Reappears at the Zoo in Asheboro

The gorilla brothers are old enough to have some fun

these days and they are constantly playing at something or other.  You have read about the rings earlier. The keepers bring in the rings every so often. If the rings were around every day, they might get old, but instead they are a source of fascination. Here Bomassa investigates one pretty thoroughly.  He sits quietly exploring it with his mouth. Then of course, along comes little brother. Apollo has decided he shall have the ring, so he reaches for it and grabs hold. Then he hoists it up over his shoulders and off he goes.
Bomassa mouths the ring

Apollo takes the ring

Apollo runs off with the toy, Bomassa grabbing towards it with his feet

Friday, September 19, 2014

Visiting Great Grandmother Colo Gorilla

Your friendly blogger has been on the road  

visiting Bomassa and Apollo's relatives. That's why it's been so lonnnnnnnnng since your last update. She's now happy to share a few pics of these fascinating characters. Here is their great grandmother, Colo Gorilla, who lives in Columbus, Ohio. Find her in Bomassa's family tree.  Queen Bee, Granny Pants, Sweetie Face, Colo has earned many names because she is so well loved. She is so famous world over, that she has her own Wikipedia article, excerpted below.

Colo (born December 22, 1956) is a Western Gorilla widely known as the first gorilla to be born in captivity anywhere in the world and as the oldest gorilla in captivity in the world. Colo was born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to Millie Christina (mother) and Baron Macombo (father). She was briefly called Cuddles before a contest was held to officially name her. Colo's name is derived from the place of her birth, Columbus, Ohio.
Watch the video about Colo's birth. If you watch carefully, you may catch a glimpse of the new silverback who will soon join the troop in North Carolina. He, too was born at the Columbus Zoo. More on that in the days to come.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Baby Gorilla Turns Two Years Old

Happy Birthday Apollo Gorilla!

Baby gorillas look so safe and secure and warm in the arms of mother. Here's a very young (and sweet!) Apollo, as seen November 16, 2012 when he was just eleven weeks old.  He has changed so much in just two years, originally able to do little more than hang onto mom, and take care of some other essentials. Now, he is climbing up walls, swinging from branches, and chasing his big brother all over the place.

Apollo Gorilla, Born August 31, 2012

Monday, August 25, 2014

Apollo Gorilla Takes a Turn

The Puzzle of the Ring 

was too much for the boy gorillas. As we saw a few days back, the keepers had placed a ring on end of the log, way up in the air, and Bomassa tried his special method of getting the prize. Apollo wanted that ring too! So he had to take a shot and used a very different approach!  While Bomassa is the brains, Apollo is the brawn. Recall that Bomassa had carefully climbed up that log, trying to get very close to the ring, and attempting to pull it back to himself, which was not at all effective in moving that ring off the log. Apollo, being the more active, and the more willing to stretch his physical abilities, decided to jump for it!

Apollo sizes up his target and gets ready  to pounce


And  Apollo makes contact with the big black ring

A spring and a miss
No. Not happening. That ring did not come down. Apollo had thought it through very carefully, had positioned himself well, and jumped as high as his little body possibly could. He touched it! But in the end, he did not manage to budge that ring off the end of the branch. And believe me, he tried!  Again and again, Apollo went after his target, but when I finally had to go home, that ring was still on the end of the log.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Intelligence of Gorillas

Gorillas know their colors

and they can learn sign language. They can even learn to understand the names for their various body parts. But put an enticing toy ring on a tree, and you just might find gorillas completely puzzled, at least when they're only about two years old. The wondrous reality is that you can observe the gorillas using their intelligence to try to devise a way to get a toy that looks attractive. Such was the case recently when I visited Apollo and Bomassa at the North Carolina Zoo. Each day, the keepers bring in some items for enrichment, so that the animals have something new to think about, something new to touch, to carry, to play with, to fascinate them. On this day they had brought in large black plastic rings, scattering some here and there on the ground.  I would not be surprised if the keepers had tucked some food into the sides of those rings. It's entertaining for the gorillas to manipulate an object, but even moreso, if there is some food to be had in the process. But not all of the rings were within reach. The keepers had placed one ring at the end of a log, those crafty devils! And the baby boys were fascinated!  They tried and tried to get at that ring, and to knock it down.

First, Bomassa looked up at that ring for the longest time, as you see in the top photo. And then Bomassa skillfully climbed up that log, going almost out to the end, but stopping short. I thought he was going to reach his hand out and flick that toy off the tree, letting it fall below. But instead he grabbed the ring and manhandled it, trying to pull it towards himself. That did not help at all with the mission! So Bomassa climbed back down, and then Apollo copied his big brother and did exactly the same thing. And he got the same result, leaving the ring exactly where the keepers had placed it.

As you can see in the last photo, Bomassa is standing right under the ring. I wonder if this is coincidence, or if Bomassa has figured out that if that rings falls when he is there, he is going to be the one to get it, even though Apollo did the work. Anyway, the boys gave up and attended to other boy gorilla matters, such as finding some food in the brush, and checking in with their mamas now and then. But the allure proved too much, so later they tried again for the ring, using an entirely new method. All will be revealed in next week's post. If you are signed up for email, you will be the first to know! Look for the Follow By Email box over in the right hand column.

Bomassa looks wistfully at the ring on the end of the branch

Bomassa and Apollo took turns

Apollo gets close as Bomassa observes from below

Monday, August 4, 2014

Happy Birthday Bomassa!

Today, August 4, is Bomassa's second birthday. 

When he was born two years ago, the zoo and all of North Carolina rejoiced. It had been years and years since the last successful birth of a baby gorilla--since 1989 when Kwanza was born to Hope and Carlos. Fun fact, while NC Zoo was graced with two amazing boy gorillas in the same month (Bomassa and his little brother Apollo, born on the 31st), the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago had big news of their own. They greeted the arrival of two baby girl gorillas just a few months later. Patty was born in October, with Nayembi following in November.  And who was the daddy, you might ask, of these two adorable gorilla girls born only about a month apart? Why, that was Kwan, formerly known as Kwanza, who had been much loved in North Carolina.

Jamani  holding her son Bomassa. December 2012.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Olympia Gorilla Throws a Punch

Friction Among the Gorillas Last Week

I am not sure what was going on, but Olympia, the dominant female gorilla at the North Carolina Zoo was ultra testy last time I visited. More than a few times, she approached adult female Jamani in a threatening way. And what does that mean for gorillas? 

Olympia right, Jamani left, with Bomassa on her back
When gorillas go on the rampage, they bare their teeth and they charge, but they don't necessarily engage for much contact. Here you can see that as Olympia throws a punch at Jamani, she is not even looking at her target. And then, just as quickly as she started, she is done, and running past. The goal seems to be to show displeasure, but not to get involved in a huge battle. 

Olympia left, Jamani right, Bomassa on her back
What could be the problem? You can see that Bomassa is right there on his mom's back, and that Apollo is right at the base of his mother's feet. As far as I could tell, the only times that Olympia was going after Jamani were times at which Apollo was hanging out nearby Jamani and Bomassa.  I wonder what it's like to be a little boy gorilla clinging to a mother in the midst of defending herself!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gorillas Up the Wall

They're driving Apollo Gorilla Up the Wall

or maybe he's just found a climbable spot! In the spirit of the very young child he still is, he keeps practicing and practicing and practicing. When we were kids we called it play. But experts in child psychology tell us that when kids are playing, they are doing it to learn, to develop skills, to get stronger. See that spot over there on the right, near the grate? There is just enough of a texture on that wall to give Apollo some places to rest one foot, as he holds a higher spot with one of his big hands. Then he carefully places the other foot, and again, a hand, until he gets up pretty high!  Eventually he runs out of places conducive to climbing and he leaps backwards and drops to get down again.  Don't worry, he can't get out. That wall slopes the other way as it gets higher. And it's quite a high wall, designed so that the animals can't possibly hoist themselves high enough to get themselves into trouble. But it's fun to watch him try. #YouCouldGo!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Gorilla Moms and Discipline

Discipline Breeds Respect and Affection 

Apollo is spending more and more time these days with his brother's mother. He likes her! And who wouldn't? Jamani Gorilla is calm, patient, caring and sweet. On the other hand, she's no pushover, and when Apollo gets out of hand she pulls him back in line. She'll hold his leg to immobilize him when he gets too frisky, and she'll even give him a little bite on the shoulder if she has to. Full of energy, Apollo Gorilla wears the other gorillas out!

Apollo, left, and Jamani
This little dynamo is into the go, go, go method of enjoying life. Sure, he hangs out with his mom, Olympia, when he needs a little snack. (Approaching the two year mark, he's not yet given up nursing.) And he'll remain long enough for a cuddle with Olympia at times, or take a nap on her furry self. But when Apollo's awake and wants to play, he twirls over to see big brother Bomassa, who's generally quite near mom. And that is when you can sometimes sneak a peak of Apollo looking up and gazing adoringly at Jamani.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gorillas Walking Upright

Gorillas walk upright part of the time

Usually they're sitting, or lounging on their backs or moving around on all fours, but little Bomassa often has two hands chock full of food. When he's got carrots, there is no way he is going to let them loose! Instead he toddles around, legs only, and he does it like a pro! An adept and well-practiced walker, Bomassa is grandson to another walker, the inimitable Toni Gorilla.  She tends to walk upright very often, and some say this may be traceable to the fact that she was handraised. These days, whenever possible, the keepers and veterinarians at AZA zoos will try to make sure the mother is taking care of her own baby. When that can't occur due to illness or maternal rejection or other issues, the zoo assembles a team of round the clock caregivers who will handraise the baby. This is a good stopgap measure, but it's not ideal.  It's easier for a gorilla baby to learn gorilla ways from other gorillas than from people.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Feeding Time at the North Carolina Zoo

Feeding time at the NCZoo is a hoot to watch.

The keepers go up on top of the wall and throw down a couple of boxes full of nutritious food,  various vegetables and greens.  The gorillas go scurrying after their favorites. Bomassa grabbed himself a couple of handfuls today and then found himself a nice place to sit and enjoy.  He loves his carrots, he's got one in each hand, but he's clutching a nice slice of green pepper too!  The fun happens around 11:30 AM and 1:30 PM each day. #YouCouldGo 

Bomassa weighs just a little less than 26 pounds now. You can tell that he is changing and growing. His face is looking more mature and filled out now than it was looking just a few weeks ago. Look at this little bruiser!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Baby Gorillas in Action

Here's a video of the gorillas of the North Carolina Zoo taken by b palmento, a major fan of the adorable Bomassa and Apollo and the rest of their family. Some nice basic footage which shows you how the gorillas behave on an everyday basis. A few notes, so that you know a little bit about who is who and what is happening. The video starts with Jamani coming down from the tree, Bomassa on her back. Then we have Olympia following, with Apollo on her back. Next we see Acacia enter from stage right. At about 1:30 we see Acacia approaching and climbing the tree. At 1:52 we see Jamani give a little hop as Olympia barrels in from the right. Olympia is dominant, and sometimes Jamani appears a little scared of her and makes sure to clear out of her way. Jamani is the biggest of the three lady gorillas. Therefore her deference to the smaller Olympia is surprising, an interesting dynamic to observe. At 2:54 we see Apollo hopping down from the rock he has climbed. As the son of the dominant female, he is always asserting himself over his big brother. So he climbs up on the rock to the get the upper hand. But then our sweet Bomassa bares his teeth and strikes out, causing Apollo to leap down and go away. Highly unusual! If you have been reading this blog for a little while, you know that Bomassa sometimes runs to mama for safety. It's nice to see him standing his ground against that little tyke Apollo!

For even more interesting videos about the gorillas check out the YouTube stream of b palmento.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Gorilla Scuffle

Baby Boy Gorilla Play

Whenever the boys are together these days at their home at the North Carolina Zoo, they are both showing their teeth and using those big hands of theirs to show the other who's boss. Mothers-of-People-Boys who come to the window always remind us that the gorilla boys just playing. Jamani continues to stay nearby, just in case things get out of hand.  Look at the size of those teeth in their mouths!
Apollo left, Bomassa right, looking at his mother's arm

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Jumping Stage

Apollo is enthralled these days with jumping. When I visited recently, he had climbed to the top of the tree structure, which is some 12 to 15 feet off the ground, I would guess.
Mother Olympia sits down below unconcerned as her son balances precariously
Up top, there is a platform. One of the gorillas had just hiked up there to dump a great load of straw. Rising above the platform by about three feet or so, is a post in the shape of a log. Apollo had climbed up to that very high platform, and then would hoist himself up onto the post. Next he would jump down the short distance and land on the straw covered platform.  And then he would do it again. And again!  He was having a wonderful time climbing, then balancing, then jumping. Over and over again. It's how kids learn motor skills, through play, through repetition, through practice. Whether it's a gorilla-kid or a people-kid, the story is the same. 

Here he comes!  Ready to land on that platform and scramble back up the post

Monday, June 9, 2014

Monday, June 2, 2014

Bomassa with Mom

Jamani is the largest of the gorillas at the Zoo and she has quite an imposing gaze! She and Bomassa often sit together. She's a good mom!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Just Hanging Out

Bomassa and his mother Jamani are in the foreground, while Olympia sits behind. Apollo is practicing beating his chest. These days, the gorillas are picking at the grass and eating some. They do this in the Spring when the grass is tender and tasty.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Anything Goes

Remember we said Olympia is a little light on her discipline of her son, Apollo?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bomassa's Big Belly

Bomassa loves to eat, and it shows! I am told that he is the easier brother to train. When the gorillas are learning their routines, they get treats in return. For example the keepers might need for Bomassa to turn his ear towards them, which would be useful, for example,  if they need to check for  infection. If he turns the ear,  he gets a bite of kiwi, one of his favorites. Apollo gets the same opportunity, but is less interested in food, so he is not making quite so much progress with his training.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Keeping Tabs on Apollo

Jamani had been resting under the overhang, keeping warm in the straw as she often does after lunch. Apollo showed up as she was cuddling with Bomassa. If you've been following these pages, you can guess why. He wanted to do a little wrestling with his big brother! And Bomassa is always game for that.  So the boys started baring their teeth, and biting on each other and raising their arms to each other and so on and so forth.

Jamani will tolerate a little bit of that, but she has her limit. It must be kind of annoying when you are just trying to take a nap and the little boys just want to cause a big ruckus. Eventually, she calms things down, normally by restraining Apollo. You can see her putting her arm on his leg here. In a very gentle way, she's looking him right in the eyes, and letting Apollo know that it's time to leave his big brother alone for a little while.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Hands Off Approach to Mothering

Olympia Gorilla does not go in much for discipline.  Here we see her in her typical nonchalant pose.  She is sitting by herself, while her son Apollo has wandered away. He's visiting Jamani and Bomassa and he's ready to cause a little trouble.  She looks up to see what's happening, but that's about all she's likely to do.

Look at Apollo reaching his arm up to Bomassa as his mother looks on.  He's going to get into it! Jamani will be stepping in momentarily if things start to get out of hand, but Olympia will keep her distance. She is not worried about those half-brothers getting a few scratches and scrapes.  I have never seen her intervene.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

Gorillas at the Top

What do Baby Gorillas Want

when they climb up high?  Apollo seems to like to climb up to the very top of the structure just for fun. Certainly it's wonderful for him, and helps him build strength and agility. But then when he gets up there, he does like to find his mom and hang out with her for awhile. He's a very social little guy.

Granted, it might take a minute or two for mother gorilla and her baby to get comfortable.

And then when it's all over, Olympia usually helps her little son get down safely. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Awe-Inspiring Gorilla Climbing Skills

Baby Like a Rocket

Apollo is not even two years old yet, but he shoots up the climbing tree in no time flat. Just a few months ago, he would proceed tentatively, but now he is sure of his every move and moves fast. Sometimes when I watch him climb, I just stand there and gasp.
This past Monday he used those capable hands and feet of his to get right up to the top in just a few minutes. He does not need any help at all from his mom, but sometimes, he does like to go and find Olympia,  and climb on her too.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bomassa Enjoys the Day

The baby gorillas at the North Carolina Zoo are still doing great and they are such a joy to see.  Here's a look at Bomassa taking a break this past Wednesday on a beautiful day. Suddenly he stretches his torso up, throws back his head and gazes at the sky. He'd been munching all morning on a big head of lettuce, some half peppers, and a huge stalk of celery.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tickle, Tickle

Jamani appears to be tickling little Apollo. She hangs out and rests when she is not sleeping or roaming the area in her search for food. Her son Bomassa stays close by as he is still quite small. Usually at some point, Apollo will come over and horn in on that quiet time. His Auntie Jamani will tolerate a certain amount of the commotion he brings,  and then she will separate the two boys with her gargantuan hand.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Bomassa Gets the Upper Hand

Watch out Baby Brother!

And now we see Bomassa towering over his baby brother and approaching, ready to bring down that arm of his and make a grab.

Apollo actually looks a little scared. This is quite a switch from what we normally see, as it's usually Apollo going after Bomassa. Look at that face! But the brothers are well matched. They'll get some nicks and scrapes, but neither is likely to hurt the other. Anyway, they are only playing.  Besides, in the next moment, Apollo has regained control of the situation, wrapping both his arms around Bomassa, who then breaks free and runs away. It does indeed look as though the younger brother is going to be the dominant male of the group as he gets older. These little guys are a scream!

It's been a long time since I got out to the zoo to see the boys. It's been a tough winter!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hanging out with Mother Gorilla

Here's a recent pic of Apollo Gorilla. He's still nursing, and on this day he was snuggling with his mom. Usually he is too busy running over to try to bother, tease, and bite on his big brother, but this day, he really just wanted to be with Olympia for a little while.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Seventeen Month Old Gorilla

Bomassa Gorilla was just about to turn seventeen months old when I visited a few weeks ago. I did not realize how incredibly big he had gotten, until I got home and took a good look at this photo where he is riding on his mother's back. Look at the size of his legs and hindquarters! He is developing some heft!  He was so much smaller just a short time ago. Of course in the early days, he was REALLY little compared to this. Take a look. Can you believe how much he has grown?

And here's a good look at his sweet face at the same age, just almost seventeen months old.  You can also catch a bit of a peek at his belly. See that bump there? He's got some extra fat on him!  Surprising, considering that he had only just attained a weight of twenty pounds.  For those keeping track at home, Bomassa's baby brother Apollo was twenty five  pounds at the same weigh session!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How to Carry Your Baby--Not!

Olympia is a good mom, 

but she seems a little clumsy when she puts little Apollo on her back. When I visited recently, Apollo was just about to turn sixteen months old, and was playing in his mom's lap. I don't see that happening a whole lot. Yes, he still nurses, but on this day, they were just enjoying each others' warmth, I believe, which is rare. It was sweet to see them cuddle for a bit. And then when Olympia was ready to move along, she tossed him up over her head so that she could walk away with him riding piggyback. He is adept at readjusting himself, and he righted himself in no time flat. But it's kind of funny to watch. Jamani, the mother of Apollo's big brother Bomassa, seems to be a little more graceful with this maneuver of placing the baby safely on the back. For that matter, so does Acacia, who has much less experience!

Not Olympia's finest moment

Apollo is really looking bigger these days