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Week 18: Moving to New Digs!

Thus far, after hours Kindi has been living in Gorilla Forest in a dedicated nursery space specifically designed to meet the needs of a newborn gorilla. This space included a small mesh door, called a ‘howdy door’ adjoining the gorillas’ off-exhibit space which allowed Kindi to spend quality time getting to know the gorillas. It also allowed her to get acquainted with the daytime movements and shifting of gorillas inside Gorilla Forest while providing for quiet nights during her first few months.

2016-7-7-Kindi-ks--27Like our kiddos eventually move from a crib to a bed, (though Kindi was never and will never be in a crib) Kindi has begun the shift to a different scenario — one that better meets her needs as she grows and becomes a more mobile infant gorilla. Her new location is more centrally located and  will increase her protected exposure to other gorillas at night, allowing her to become more familiar with daytime as well as nighttime sounds, sights and the smells — particularly those of her potential surrogate family. Females Paki and Kweli plus Father Mshindi will continue to be in an adjoining space so that close bonding with Kindi can continue.

2016-7-7-Kindi-ks--26Gorilla care staff are also guiding Kindi as she learns the daily process of how to move around Gorilla Forest like the adult gorillas. Gorilla Forest is a rotational exhibit, allowing animals to change their location during the day as part of their daily and varied enrichment — a significant and innovative feature recognized in this award-winning exhibit. We use the term “shifting” to refer to a gorilla’s movement through a series of transfer chutes from bedroom-to-bedroom or from bedroom-to-exhibit spaces.

Pretty soon, Kindi will hear the words “Kindi, shift” from her keepers and they will assist her in moving in tandem with her family group into and out of bedroom and exhibit spaces. Keepers have already started this process of moving with her and opening and closing doors in front of and behind her. It is critical that Kindi is comfortable moving through the habitat in the way that the adult gorillas move throughout the day. Keepers are making sure she gets lots of practice! The goal is to ensure Kindi is acclimated to all the regular activities of life in Gorilla Forest so she has a smooth transition in the future. So far, Kindi is proving a fast and curious learner. Next time you visit, you may spot Kindi taking a nap or exploring new spaces both in the indoor and outdoor exhibits.

2016-7-7-Kindi-ks--15A few answers to frequently asked questions:

  • Kindi now weighs 8.8pounds.
  • Kindi takes a bottle five times a day through the mesh that she is able to grasp on her own now. A second bottle has been eliminated overnight allowing Kindi some extra sleep time
  • Human scent on Kindi from her keepers will have no impact on her surrogate mother and new family group members accepting her. Though we would always prefer an animal raise their offspring, sometimes that isn’t an option and animals must be hand raised. Surrogacy programs around the nation have successfully introduced hand-raised gorilla infants to gorilla surrogates.
  • Gorillas are intelligent observational learners. Watching the human surrogates care for the infant gorilla may actually help Paki, Kindi’s potential surrogate mother, learn additional caretaking behaviors.

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