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Uzumma's first Mother's Day!

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications

Uzumma enjoying the spring sunshine with her 2-month old baby. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

We know you’ve been waiting for an update on mama Uzumma, her baby, dad Kwame and the rest of our Western lowland gorilla family—so here it is, just in time for Uzumma’s first Mother’s Day! Big thanks to gorilla keepers Stephanie and Judy for providing so many rich and descriptive details for us to share … and we’re happy to begin with the news that everything is going great and everyone seems healthy and content!


The group continues to do well with the new baby, who is about 2 months old now and will be named very soon. All the gorillas are still giving Uzumma lots of space when she needs it, and reverence. It’s common for members of a gorilla family to show a lot of respect for a new mother and infant—elevating their status in the group hierarchy. And seeing as Uzumma was already the dominant female of the group, it is all the more evident now. Uzumma is also very aware of where she physically positions herself and her baby in relation to the rest of the group. She prefers to stay with or near Kwame—the baby’s father—during meal time, and seems to also enjoy having Yola near her.

Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Speaking of Yola, many of you have asked how she is doing with all the exciting developments in her family. At 4-years-old going on 5, she may not be the baby of the group anymore, but she is playful as ever and doing great! She and Akenji have resumed the play sessions that they took part in before the baby was born … and when Akenji isn’t playing with her, Yola is often able to get the attention of our amazing keepers who will engage in a little bit of playful interaction with her at the mesh that separates them. (Yes, it’s a major gorilla keeper job perk!)

Yola loves to play and is very curious about the new baby, who is her nephew. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

As for the baby, every day he is steadily becoming stronger and more observant. He is coordinated enough now to grip his mama’s fur pretty well and can push up with his legs too, allowing him to maneuver himself to Uzumma’s nipple if he’s near it. This is a milestone that makes him less reliant on Uzumma to have to position him correctly to nurse—something she had been doing wonderfully, anyway.

Seeing Uzumma's feet and hands holding her baby's gives you an idea of how tiny he is. His grip and dexterity are getting stronger every day!  Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

And since he can move around a little better, he isn’t always facing inward anymore, toward Uzumma as she holds him. Sometime she lays or sits with him in her lap so he can look out and around instead of just facing his mom—taking in all of his surroundings. Keepers Stephanie and Judy tell us they’ve also observed him mouthing Uzumma’s knuckles when she relaxes her hands near his mouth. They say this is probably related to the fact that he is teething and has at least four teeth coming in already! For gorilla infants, teeth start coming in much earlier than in human infants.

Uzumma is a relaxed and confident mama, letting a curious Yola get very close to see the baby. Photo Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

During Uzumma’s mealtime, her baby watches carefully, tracking the food she is eating with his eyes and head movements—a good indication that his growth and development are very much on track. He is also sleeping a bit less than he has in previous weeks and seems to be very alert and aware, gazing up at the sky when he and Uzumma go outside. It is inspiring to think of the things he is discovering for the first time … the trees, branches, leaves, birds and clouds.

There is so much to learn! Uzumma and Kwame's baby is alert, aware and curious about all the things around him. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo 

Kwame continues to be attentive to the pair as he passes by them or when he sits close. Stephanie and Judy both say he is definitely curious about his baby and seems very interested in whatever Uzumma and his son are up to. This interest and engagement will likely increase as the baby gets older and more independent—which will be exciting to see!

Kwame, the baby's father, continues to show lots of interest in his son and is often sitting close to Uzumma as she holds him. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

When Uzumma was a baby, our keepers would often observe her mother, Amanda, playing with her, cuddling, tickling and laughing. Uzumma’s new baby is just reaching that stage now and we’ve seen her lying on her back, balancing the baby above her on her feet while holding his hands—like a game of airplane. Of course, as the baby gets older, his energy and curiosity levels will increase and he’ll likely be the one trying to initiate play sessions with Uzumma—wrestling and swiping out like she used to do when she was a youngster.

Big hands and feet hold little hands and feet. Uzumma iies on her back playing with her baby, holding him up in the air. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

We’ll have to see whether she will engage in more robust bouts of play, but our keepers fully expect that—by that point—Yola may step in to “volunteer” as an eager playmate for some silliness. We can’t wait to see what happens next … and we’ll make sure to let you know about it, too!

If you're looking for a way to celebrate Mother's Day, here are three easy ways to support gorilla conservation and honor your mama!

  • A membership gift is a wonderful way to say, let's spend time together and share our love for animals. *current memberships* and those purchased or renewed during the temporary closure will be extended for the length of closure.
  • Adopt a digital ZooParent baby gorilla! Show your love and care for animals with a digital adoption for the Uzumma figure in your life. Your donation will go toward our relief fund dedicated to animal care. 
  • Visit to download a complimentary animal-inspired background before you jump on Zoom or Skype to call you mom. Call your mom.
Happiest Mother's Day!


Cheryl said…
"He will be cute for years," isn't that the truth, Judy! Happy Mother's Day to Uzumma and all the extra Moms (the keepers and volunteers.)

Thanks so much for keeping us updated. What a great blog this has been, and especially today. The images are fantastic.

Can't wait to see the gorillas and all the zoo family again.