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.