Little Guenon, Big Step

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Installment #5
Read Installment #4: Little Guenon, Big Sister

Gigi snuggles with Mimi.

Gigi snuggles with Mimi.

Things continued to go well for Gigi. The relationship between Gigi and her sister, Mimi, was consistently positive, as was her relationship with brother Dru. Most of the time, mom Fifi was patient with and even affectionate toward Gigi. However, we occasionally saw Fifi separate the two girls when they played with each other or sat together, encouraging Mimi to nurse from her briefly. Sometimes, Fifi would carry Mimi away from Gigi. It seemed as if Fifi was unsure about this new relationship that took up so much of her older daughter’s time. Even though we didn’t always understand the dynamics of what was going on with the new family, the Wolf’s guenons did and were working things out among themselves.

Our next step was to prepare Gigi for spending the nights with her family. The guenons often sleep in a cozy hammock suspended from the ceiling. The hammock is made of clean, soft burlap and is large enough for several guenons to sleep together. To encourage Gigi to sleep in a hammock, we strung one up for her in her nursery in the Children’s Zoo and moved all her favorite items into it. Gigi got the “hang” of the hammock and began to use it every night.

Gigi’s first sleepover with the guenons occurred on February 13, 2009. This was Gigi’s last big step. Instead of returning Gigi to the nursery in the late afternoon, nursery keepers fed Gigi her last bottle of the day in the guenons’ bedroom area. We were happy to see that, after drinking her warm bottle that night, Gigi climbed into the hammock to sleep with her sister. The next morning, Gigi appeared rested and had even gained some weight. Our Gigi was a full-fledged member of the guenon family!

These days we have new challenges with Gigi, which are the kind of challenges you really want to have. Sometimes Mimi is holding on to Gigi with such loyalty and devotion that it is difficult to separate the two for weigh-ins or feedings. Gigi has a few more lessons to perfect, like how to forage for food quickly. Until she does, she is briefly separated from the family so she can get enough of the choice food items before a savvy member of the guenon family snatches them up.

As we drop Gigi’s last few bottle feedings, we reflect upon her success. Gigi lives her days surrounded by her cohesive and intelligent family. She continues to gain weight and confidence as she grows. We are proud of Gigi and wish her well.

Janet Hawes is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.