It is with a heavy heart that I write this first part of my blog. Brahma’s sudden and unexpected passing has saddened all of the Africa keepers. He was a very special dog that achieved great things in the short amount of time we were given with him. Brahma’s grumpy old man demeanor (or that’s what it seemed like to me) was balanced out by his exceptional skills as a father and provider. The care he gave Imara and his offspring was amazing to watch and rare for alpha male dogs in the States. During this difficult time, I just personally wanted to thank all of you for the positive thoughts and the kind words that have been expressed to us. The other Africa keepers and I truly appreciate the support.
In spite of the short journey we had with Brahma, we still have a long way to go with the 10 beautiful young ones he and Imara created. The future is a bit uncertain at this point. We will manage the pack for the most part the same. Imara has taken this all in stride. The first couple of days after the loss of Brahma, I would catch her looking for him. I think she realizes what has happened, but that she still has a job to do and guiding her puppies into adulthood is her number one priority. Luckily for us, Imara is young and resilient. At about 35 lbs each, the pups are becoming a handful, but so far she is doing a great job. She is definitely still keeping them in line which you will often see on exhibit. Imara is not afraid to teach them a lesson, which is important since she is solo now.
We would not bring in another male at this time. The Species Survival Plan (SSP) for African painted dogs meets this fall and will decide which dogs go (or stay) where. For now, we will continue to enjoy Imara and the pups as they get bigger and bigger. I am secretly hoping one of the boys has been gifted with Brahma’s personality. So come on out and enjoy Brahma’s legacy and watch them change right before our eyes.
May 25, 2015 11 Comments
Mondika is turning one in August, and she continues to do wonderfully within her family group! It is extremely important for a young gorilla to grow up in their family group to learn how to be a gorilla. As she is growing more aware, she is learning the social dynamic of her family by hearing vocalizations, seeing interactions between members and even by smelling different smells. Asha is her primary teacher and has been a wonderful mother, being very attentive and protective of Mondika (Mona). Asha enjoys grooming and playing with Mona and lately is allowing Mona to become more independent by venturing off some, but not out of reach at this point.
Mona is also very interested in learning from other members within her family like her father, Jomo. Jomo is not only an excellent silverback, he is also a wonderful dad. Mona is Jomo’s second child and continues to prove himself. He is reserved, respectful and gentle with Asha and Mona. Mona is very interested in him and has been seen on several occasions touching, climbing and smelling him. Jomo sits very still and enjoys every minute. As Mona grows more playful and independent she will most likely spend more time with Jomo.
Physically she is also progressing well as a young gorilla. She is still small as gorillas grow slowly like humans do. They are considered babies until they are three years old. Therefore, she spends most of her time on mom, but every day she is growing more independent. As a result, she has learned to knuckle walk and climb and enjoys hanging upside down. She has also developed a white dot on her rear end that all gorilla babies do. They are not born with this white dot and it does disappears as they get older. This dot allows their mom to see them more easily in the dense dark forests in the wild as they start to venture off.
Mona is curious and aware of her surroundings and food. She now has enough teeth to explore foods that mom eats. She has a sweet tooth, like most primates, and enjoys bananas and grapes the most. However, she still nurses frequently and her mothers milk is her main source of nutrition at this age. Mona will continue to become more adventurous and playful, and her personality will become even more apparent as she continues to grow within her family group. As keepers we are excited to see her develop socially and physically.
May 20, 2015 4 Comments
And the names of the painted dog puppies are Riddler, Bruce, Alfred, Hugo, Luke and Oswald for our six boys. Lucy, Quinn, Selina and Ivy are the four little ladies. If you didn’t catch the theme here, it’s Batman (don’t worry, I wasn’t that familiar with it either). Some are characters from the show, a couple from the comics, some from the motion pictures and others from the animated series. It all started when the one puppy we could distinguish from all of the others had an upside down white question mark on his back. This one clearly had to be called Riddler. The rest just followed.
However, there are two that are a bit more obscure and don’t fit the more well known character names. Luke and Lucy. They are indeed in the Batman realm, but it is not a coincidence that they have a deeper meaning to me. I have been working with African painted dogs for almost a decade. That is also how long I have been waiting to have a litter survive. Since painted dog puppies basically have a 50/50 shot of surviving, that all ten have thrived thus far and are doing great is a miracle! It has always been my hope to someday be able to pass on the names of the first pair I ever worked with. The first painted dogs that made me realize that this was going to be my life’s passion and to be involved in the bigger picture of their survival, both in captivity and in the wild.
As a zookeeper, we love all animals, but there are those that touch our hearts in ways that affect us deeply. Luke and Lucy were those animals for me. It is my hope that the ‘new’ Luke and Lucy (with their matching white spotted rumps), along with their siblings, inspire others to realize what special creatures painted dogs really are. This summer, you all will get the chance to see this for yourselves once they are on exhibit. Can’t wait to see you there!
March 20, 2015 7 Comments