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 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.
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