Week 9: Becoming More Aware

Kindi is growing and hitting her anticipated milestones! Nearly 5 pounds now, she has been learning how to eat from a bottle through the mesh enclosing her nursery and to ride on her keepers’ backs; she is also becoming more aware of everything going on around her.

As you know, the Gorilla keepers who form the gorilla care staff have stepped up to the very important task of raising Kindi until a gorilla surrogate is determined. Providing the best physical and psychological care for Kindi is paramount, but equally important is providing her care in a way that will allow her to flourish as a gorilla.

Part of teaching Kindi what it means to be a gorilla has included allowing her to ride on keepers’ backs the way she would have with her mom, Mia Moja. Keepers also make a low rumbling sound (purring) while feeding Kindi. This is a reassuring sound for gorillas and is used during feeding time as well as any other time when Kindi needs reassurance. These are movements and sounds that Kindi would have experienced with Mia.

As we told you in the Day 29 entry, Louisville Zoo staff is hopeful that one of the two adult females from Mia Moja’s family group will be a surrogate for Kindi. The keepers are encouraged by what they’ve seen so far, including daily interactions with Kindi through mesh with Paki and Kweli.


Paki watching Kindi closely through the mesh in the exhibit space in Gorilla Forest

When Kindi is on exhibit, Paki, Kweli and father Mshindi are also on exhibit in the area beside Kindi’s space, separated by mesh. When Kindi is not on exhibit and in her separate area, the adult gorilla group is near her in the adjoining bedroom space which shares a “howdy” mesh panel with Kindi’s nursery suite.

The process of surrogacy not only includes observing Paki and Kweli with Kindi, but getting Kindi to bottle feed through mesh. While gorilla surrogates Paki or Kweli would take care of the psychological needs and some of the physical needs of Kindi, her human caregivers will still be responsible for feeding her formula and eventually solid foods. Paki and Kweli won’t produce milk, so Kindi will have to continue taking her bottles. Once placed with her gorilla surrogate, Kindi will have to know to crawl to the mesh in order to receive her daily bottles. The bottles will eventually decrease in frequency but still have to be administered for up to 4 years. This training process is still in its very early stages. Keepers are now feeding Kindi through a mesh door while still holding her. One of Kindi’s arms grips the mesh while the other grips onto the keepers’ furry vest that mimics mom’s fur. You can see this in the video.

You can see Kindi on exhibit with her keepers in Gorilla Forest Thursday – Sunday, 12 – 4 p.m. (subject to change, of course). Keepers says that Kindi does see her guests and is aware of them, but she goes about her day as the gorillas do.