Thursday, January 2, 2014

Lovin' on Auntie Gorilla

Acacia Takes Bomassa for a Little Cuddling Session

and his mom Jamani did not mind a bit! They were all sitting on the log, chomping down on some browse, branches full of nutritious leaves.

Bomassa was in the middle, between his mother Jamani on the left, and his "Auntie" Acacia. With no actual genetic connection, these gorilla ladies are related only in that they are part of the same troop. But in any gorilla troop where there are babies and females (either older sisters, or fully grown unrelated aunties), there is likely to be some surrogate care-taking going on. The females might be practicing to be mothers themselves one day, or they might have children already. Either way, for some gorilla ladies,  those maternal instincts kick in and they step up to help out with the nurturing. We've been seeing for months now that Acacia is warm-hearted towards Bomassa. So it was no surprise when Acacia turned around, and took hold of the baby and skilfully hoisted him up to ride on her back. Mother Jamani  is perfectly comfortable with Acacia taking Bomassa away for a little while and did not even look up!  Mom just kept right on munching on those leaves, and did not turn her head to watch Acacia behind her,  as she hurried off with the baby, rushing away on all fours, circling towards the pond. The pond is empty of water now and earlier Acacia had placed a huge pile of straw in there just a little while earlier. It's a perfect place to curl up and take a nap, or to sit with a warm little bundle of gorilla baby charm. She sat down in the straw, placed the baby in her lap, adjusted her legs and they both got comfortable.

Bomassa sometimes closed his eyes and sometimes looked up at his auntie's face. He stayed and stayed, happy in Auntie's lap for a good twenty minutes or more. Several times she shook her lap playfully, bouncing Bomassa ever so gently, throwing her head back and looking at the sky. She seemed to be cherishing the experience. It's awfully nice to see Acacia getting the opportunity to build a relationship with Bomassa. She was once the dominant female in the troop, when it was just she and Jamani, but when Olympia moved in, Acacia was deposed. Now there is great antagonism between those two adults. I have never once seen Acacia approaching Olympia's baby, Apollo, nor have I seen Apollo go over to play with his Aunt. One wonders if Olympia has done something to discourage the two from getting to know each other. Thank goodness for Apollo's big brother Bomassa. And how nice for Acacia that Jamani is comfortable with sharing her precious little son!

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