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Uzumma and Kwame share new milestones with baby gorilla

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications with Judy Sievert, Gorilla Keeper
Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo


We’re so excited to share another update with you on western lowland gorilla Uzumma and her baby who was born just a little more than three weeks ago on March 4. This past week has been an exciting time for our gorilla family with milestones big and small. But even the smallest of actions, like Kwame tenderly touching his son’s foot for the first time, makes our hearts soar… and Uzumma continues to settle into motherhood like a pro.

Gorilla keeper Judy Sievert tells us that Uzumma is one of the most nurturing and attentive gorilla mothers we have ever seen at Woodland Park Zoo. This comes as no surprise to us as her mom, Amanda, was an exceptional mother to her. Uzumma’s nurturing behavior is not only amazing for her baby, but also a wonderful example for a couple of the other females in the group who one day might be mamas too.


Since Uzumma was the baby of her family, she had never held an infant before she became a mother. There was so much to learn during those first few days of her baby's life. Judy explains that there were a couple of times when Uzumma held her new baby in an awkward way that didn’t look too comfortable to him, but as soon as he fussed she would change positions. It was clear to our gorilla keepers that this was part of the normal “trial and error” that happens for all new parents. In any case, Judy says Uzumma is a natural and she quickly figured out how to hold her baby properly—and is keeping him close and safe. Baby gorillas have strong grasp with both hands and feet so it’s not as easy as it would seem to change their position! Uzumma has to pry each hand and foot from her hair to move him around.


VIDEO: Uzumma pats her baby on her chest. https://youtu.be/pZGHsWWaslo

One of the questions we’ve heard most from you during the last few weeks is about whether gorilla babies cry. Judy explains that gorilla infants can vocalize loudly if they’re hungry or uncomfortable (and it's very different from the sounds you'd hear from a human baby), but they rarely do. The reason is because gorilla moms, like Uzumma, typically hold their young babies close to them 24/7—so whenever a baby would cry or fuss, mom is able to take care of its needs immediately.

Uzumma handles her tiny baby like a pro now, and all her attention is focused on him. Keepers have occasionally heard what they would interpret to be very faint, soft crying, grunting or fussing vocalizations from her baby but being the attentive mother that she is, Uzumma immediately knows just what to do to calm him. When he makes a movement or sound indicating he is uncomfortable, she changes her position, she jiggles and pats him until he settles down. As we have all seen on videos, she even pats him when he isn't fussy. Baby gorillas like to be patted. Nothing is more important to our new mother than her amazing baby.


Uzumma and her family group are always together. When it’s too cold for the baby to go outside, the group is very comfortable in their large inside behind-the-scenes area. Uzumma spends much of her time resting there and is always holding her baby. Keepers have recently seen a couple milestones which we’d like to share with you. A few days ago, they saw her lay her baby down for the first time, on the soft hay bed next to her. She was on her side with the little boy's head resting on her arm and his back on the hay next to her. She held and looked at each leg and foot, his little chest and belly—she seems to be fascinated with his belly button. She adores her baby and he is all important to her.


A milestone for Kwame and his baby boy

Another question many of you have asked about involves Kwame, the new baby’s father, and whether he has had much interaction with his son. Kwame has a wonderful relationship with Uzumma and all the females in his group. Keeper Judy says that during the first days after his new son was born, he and the others kept a respectful distance from Uzumma, giving her lots of space to acclimate to her new role and to bond with the baby. Initially, Uzumma did not want to have Kwame or any of the others too close. The gorilla keepers saw Uzumma throw a handful of hay in Kwame's direction when he stood a couple feet away looking at her and his son—a normal sign from a new mom that she wasn’t ready for others to get too close. Kwame respected the direction and moved away from them.

Now as Uzumma grows in confidence as a mother, we’re seeing a change and she is more comfortable having her curious family members come closer. Judy explains that now, she’s seen Yola and Akenji playing together right near Uzumma and the baby. In quiet moments sometimes they sit quite close to the pair, watching with interest. This past week keepers saw Kwame and Uzumma sitting next to each other and Uzumma even allowed Kwame to briefly hold onto his son's little foot. He held the tiny foot with his big hand as he looked it over closely and even gently put his son's little toes up to his mouth. When the two of them interact with each other, the baby's big eyes never leave his dad.

Kwame has shown a lot of playfullness around Uzumma and the baby and as Uzumma has become more confident, they're playing chase, grooming, and lightly wrestling with each other a lot more. There have been a few interactions where Kwame has playfully patted Uzumma on her back. These are all signs that the group is bonding as a unit and that Uzumma is comfortable with her family surrounding her. We couldn’t ask for more!

Finally, many of you have asked about a name for Uzumma and Kwame’s baby. We're working on plans to name him and will share any news as soon as we have an update.


Support extraordinary animal care

We want to thank all of our dedicated animal keepers for giving their all to our animals during this unprecedented time. We've launched a relief fund to help us navigate these difficult times: zoo.org/relief Your gift today will enable us to continue providing the best possible care for all of our animals, each and every day, and to connect with our community until we can open our gates once more. Your support is more important than ever to keep our vital work going. Gifts of any size make a difference and every dollar counts; no gift is too small.

Do more for gorillas

Learn more about endangered gorillas and how you can join us in saving species and protecting habitats. Visit https://www.zoo.org/savinggorillas to get the scoop on our gorilla conservation partners.

Decorate and sign a wish card for the baby gorilla wish book

Show your love for Uzumma's baby by sending him a wish. Each milestone in the baby’s life is a symbol of hope for his cousins in the wild, for the forests they live in and for our planet. What are your wishes for the baby gorilla? What do you hope for the future of endangered gorillas? Once we collect all of your wishes for the baby, we’ll put them into a wish book for our dedicated team of gorilla keepers. Visit https://www.zoo.org/wishbook to get started!


Comments

  1. What a beautiful mother and child! I hope he grows up to look like his Grandpa Vip.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's so beautiful to experience the bonding of the troop, how loving and gentle they all are, a wonderful mircle.

    ReplyDelete

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