Growing Up Gorilla

Leslie, the youngest member of the gorilla troop at the Safari Park recently turned 10 months old. Tipping the scale at just over 14 pounds, she is becoming more confident as her mom, Kokamo, allows the little one to move farther away to explore. Sometimes Leslie ventures from “home base” to retrieve a piece of acacia browse just out of reach, at other times it is to show off her climbing skills by reaching the top of a fallen log. Every day, she is developing and honing new skills and tastes. Leslie regularly eats solid food items including raisins, banana, papaya, and anything else that might be in Kokamo’s hand.

While Leslie naturally is learning lots from her mom, she has “taught” Kokamo something, too; she has convinced her mom to let her ride on her back! Kokamo preferred to have her last offspring, Monroe, ride in the palm of her hand or amble along next to her, grabbing a handful of hair on her arm or leg so he wasn’t left behind. But Kokamo has since realized that with a baby on her back she has two free hands to forage with, and has started to voluntarily place Leslie on her back. Leslie can also be seen wrestling with her 6-year-old brother Monroe, hitching a ride on the back of 59-year-old Vila, and even sitting near 45-year-old dad Winston. Three-year-old Joanne has taken her role as big sister pretty seriously and seems delighted to have a younger gorilla to interact with. Joanne has taken Leslie under her wing and takes any opportunity she can to babysit her half sister. Leslie has certainly brought a whole new dynamic to our already exciting troop and we look forward to watching her continue to grow and thrive!

Lacey Pollack is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous blog, Training Big Cats.