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
Brahma and Imara certainly have their paws full now! With 10 (6 males, 4 females) little mouths to feed, the new parents are extremely busy. At a little over 6 weeks old and around 3 kilograms each, they have become little eating machines. When they reach 28 weeks, the pups will be able to consume as much as 12 pounds of meat a day (each)!
They are still nursing, although not as frequently, maybe 4-5 times a day. Now that the puppies are much larger than at birth, you can hardly see Imara nursing underneath the giant puppy pile. At around 4 weeks of age, puppies will start showing interest in the adult diet. In the last couple of weeks, they have been trying out the Nebraska. Nebraska is a nutritionally complete meat source that is the main staple of Brahma and Imara’s diet. In order to make it more appetizing, keepers have been mixing some of the meat with a milk replacer for domestic puppies. Normally Painted Dogs wean at around 10 weeks of age, but with 10 teeth-filled mouths to feed, making the meat more palatable takes some of the burden off of Imara.
Brahma continues to regurgitate to them and the puppies are loving it. In the wild, adult Painted Dogs can fill their stomachs with 20 lbs each of food from a kill. They then will regurgitate some of this meat back at the den for the adults that are guarding it and the puppies they protect. Brahma and Imara’s puppies have also starting investigating some of the other diet items that they receive. A few of the little ones were observed helping Imara eat a neck bone and on another day were seen playing tug of war with a small chunk of rabbit. These food items are encouraging lots of natural behaviors like how to cooperatively feed and even play. Some of them have also gotten brave enough to take small treats from their keepers at the mesh barrier.
The puppies are continuing to venture out of the nest box for longer periods of time, but if Brahma or Imara vocalize a certain way or a stranger comes into the building, they quickly race back to the box. As each day passes, they seem to get more comfortable with their care givers and building relationships with them is extremely rewarding. In a couple of weeks, the puppies will receive their first official exams and their first set of vaccines. As they continue to grow, we will keep you all up to date on what is happening and how things are changing for our new pack of painted dogs.
February 19, 2015 3 Comments