Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications
Video and photo by: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren
Nadiri and her baby are getting to know each other and learning new things about each other day by day.
Here is video of our girl exploring new tactile sensations and trying out a few luscious leaves. Keeper Traci Colwell gives us a quick update on the newborn’s progress.
The baby gorilla receives attentive care by keeper and veterinary staff in a den behind the scenes of the gorilla exhibit, where Nadiri can see her baby and her baby can see her mom throughout the day, every day. “For the long-term benefits and welfare of the baby gorilla, it’s important for her to know she’s a gorilla, not a human. She never leaves the gorilla den. Here, she is exposed to her mom and can also see, hear and smell the zoo’s other gorillas,” said Martin Ramirez, mammal curator at Woodland Park Zoo. “It’s also a step toward integrating her into a family.”
Multiple times a day, the mom and baby gorilla are introduced to each other in the same den. During recent sessions, the two have lain just inches apart. “This is definitely progress. The close proximity is a good sign they’re comfortable together and getting to know each other,” said Ramirez.
An intimate view of Nadiri and baby behind the scenes in their cozy, private den. Photo by Woodland Park Zoo.
Meanwhile, the baby, currently weighing 8 pounds, continues to thrive and achieve the appropriate milestones at 2 months old. “She’s getting stronger every day and developing motor skills. Like a typical baby, she’s curious and exploring her surroundings,” said Ramirez. The baby also has cut new teeth. “Her fourth tooth just came in, so like most typical baby mammals, she has the urge to chew. She’s chewing on leaves her mom offers.”
|Getting her lips around a fresh sprig of leaves is a new experience for this tiny gorilla. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.|
In February, Nadiri turns 20. She, herself, was hand raised as an infant because her mother, Jumoke, experienced complications during labor and a team of human physicians were called in to assist the zoo’s veterinary staff with the delivery. Despite daily attempts to introduce Jumoke to her newborn, she didn’t show any interest in her baby. During Nadiri’s time of birth, it was customary, and acceptable with current scientific knowledge, to hand raise great apes with expert care staff in sterile nurseries.
Two decades later, as animal care and husbandry practices have evolved, gorilla infant care has shifted from a human-centric program to a gorilla-centric upbringing.
“Gorillas are intelligent animals that live in complex, social groups. Constantly being with a mom is natural for an infant gorilla. This gives the infant confidence and a sense of security. These are critical characteristics for a gorilla to live a healthy, social life with multigenerational gorillas, which is a natural grouping for the great ape,” explained Woodland Park Zoo General Curator Nancy Hawkes, who has a PhD in biology and specializes in mammal reproduction. “This is why raising a baby gorilla needs to be gorilla-centric from the start. Today, following proven, advanced practices, we are focused on making sure she is exposed around the clock to tactile, visual, auditory and olfactory stimuli by her mom and other gorillas.”
The zoo will continue its hands-on care program for the baby gorilla for approximately the next two months before evaluating next steps, and will continue mother and infant introductions as long as the sessions remain positive.
In mid-February, the zoo will reach out to the community to help name the baby gorilla. A naming contest will be announced and information will be available on the zoo’s website at www.zoo.org.
Related blogs:First time gorilla mom gives birth
Baby gorilla thrives, introduction sessions between mom and baby continue