Two Gorilla Babies, Two Very Different Moms

We’ve had an amazing past couple of months at Regenstein Center for African Apes with the births of gorillas Patty (October 11) and Nayembi (November 16). They’re two gorilla girls with two very different mothers.

Now three months old, Patty shows off her newly sprouted teeth next to mom Bana.

Patty’s mother Bana is a somewhat shy and reserved gorilla—a calculated decision maker and cautious at times in her social interactions. She’s a protective mother and a bit reluctant to let Patty venture on her own these days. Patty certainly has the physical strength to hold onto mom all by herself, but Bana is more than willing to continue carrying her. I affectionately refer to Bana as a “helicopter parent”.

However, Patty is strong-willed and has her own agenda, flailing about her arms and legs when she wants to break free from Bana’s grip. She’s starting to do push-ups, pull-ups and even crawl, albeit very clumsily. (She’s also getting her first teeth, as you can see in the photo above.)

Rollie is a rather vivacious gorilla—a good problem-solver and a skilled acrobat. She hasn’t really altered her daily habits since giving birth…it’s just that little Nayembi is now in tow. Rollie was in fact climbing up the tall bamboo poles and onto the nesting platforms the same day Nayembi was born, whereas Bana didn’t venture much into the vertical space of her habitat during Patty’s first month. Nayembi was subsequently quick to learn how to hold on tightly to Rollie all by herself and soon developed the strength to do push-ups at a very early age.

At times, Rollie’s sense of adventure can be a bit overzealous, like her attempts to play “airplane” with Nayembi propped up on her feet or balancing Nayembi on her head. Fortunately there is a good system of checks and balances in place: Nayembi will let out a loud shriek if mom’s play becomes too wild for her, effectively teaching Rollie to tone things down a bit.

Without getting into the age-old debate of nature vs. nurture…I will say I am very eager to watch Patty and Nayembi continue to grow and evolve as individuals, alongside their mothers Bana and Rollie, each with their own unique styles of parenting.

Maureen Leahy

Maureen Leahy is Lincoln Park Zoo's curator of primates. She will be sharing more stories about the zoo's newest arrivals at our March 3 Breakfast with the Apes.

Learn More About the Babies

Baby gorilla Patty is snuggled close as mom Bana enjoys a healthy snack.

It's a Girl!
President and CEO Kevin Bell shares more about baby gorilla Patty.

Two gorilla moms at Regenstein Center for African Apes. Bana and Patty are in the foreground while Rollie and the new baby are in the background.

A Second Gorilla Baby
President and CEO Kevin Bell shares the season’s second baby gorilla at Regenstein Center for African Apes!

Bana holds her baby, Patty, who was born October 11.

Gorilla Matchmaking and Family Planning
How did zoo matchmakers choose the pairings that produced two gorilla babies at Regenstein Center for African Apes? Scientist Sarah Long shares the details

Mosi, one of the zoo’s bachelor troop gorillas

An Array of Apes
Need incentive to register for Breakfast with the Apes on March 3? Enjoy these portraits of the zoo’s apes, from babies to bachelors.



My 1 year old granddaughter and I enjoy our time at the zoo. Being there on a weekly basis (weather allowing) is enabling SAdie to grow with the babies. Her favorite gorilla being Kwan it was interesting to note that today he did not come up to greet her. Rollie makes me catch my breath as she climbs quickly up to her platform and pulls little Nayembi up and tosses her on her back or over her head as she climbs or as she pounds Nayembi's back. Bana appears gentler and we too look forward to watching the girls grow together and develop their own personalities.

Thanks for the comment! We agree that it's going to be amazing to watch these babies grow.

They are so beautiful! Precious baby girls! I hope to be able to visit the zoo soon.. I am living near Austin, Texas. For now, I get to enjoy reading about the new babies of the zoo. I am a true believer in conservation. Look forward to readin


I was at the Zoo a couple of weeks ago and saw Kwan "yelling" at one of the moms - he was showing his teeth to her - it was in the corner where the moms usually have their babies - the little baby was attached to Mom's leg. I am wondering if little Nayembi was injured by one of Dad's tirades against one of the moms. Just a thought. Is there any chance that the cause of injury could be investigated? It looks like the cut could have been made by a pole or rope even - by accident - or could mom or Dad have bitten the baby? I am so devastated by this.

Anne, our animal care experts have investigated thoroughly, but it's unlikely we'll ever know exactly what happened. We are certain Kwan wasn't responsible, as he was momentarily separated from the group at the time of the injury. Fortunately, Nayembi's recovery is going well. We look forward to sharing more updates soon.

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