Frank, one of the newest arrivals to Gorilla Forest at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, celebrated his fifth birthday over the weekend. Along with the other six gorillas, he found many surprises waiting for him in the exhibit. Everything a five year old would want for the perfect birthday was there: presents, a cake, and even an airplane were enjoyed by the troop!
The cake, made by the Safari Park’s very creative Forage Department, had many layers of bright colors, fruits, and vegetables, and even his name carved out of yam. Large cardboard animals decorated the exhibit in the shape of a turtle, a mouse, a zebra, and more. Our volunteers did a wonderful job creating the cardboard animals and airplane, painting the gourds, and filling the small boxes with treats.
Winston, our silverback, enjoyed the cake first, meticulously picking off blueberries, orange slices, pineapple, and yam pieces with his fingertips. The rest of the troop walked all over the exhibit sampling the other goodies. One of the favorite items was the ice cupcakes with whipped yam topping. Goodie bags with air-popped popcorn, sunflower seeds, and raisins were also a big hit. The gorillas even enjoyed a wide variety of plants that we keepers provided, including ficus, Hong Kong orchids, and grewia. In response to the colorful buffet, contented belly rumbles were heard from many of the adults and excited chest beats from the two boys, Frank and Monroe.
Frank was able to investigate his cake once Winston found other treats. He smelled and licked the cake several times and decided it was best seen from above, standing on it for a few seconds. That is, until his feet got too cold! Continuing to play with it, Frank pulled the top section off and thought it was delicious. Meanwhile, Frank’s grandmother, Kami, made her way over to get a taste. The rest of the troop found time throughout the day to sample the cake. Even though it was warm outside, the cake lasted all day long.
Frank and his adopted mom, Imani, have been settling in nicely with the rest of the troop the past few months. After foraging in the morning, the troop is normally found in close proximity to one another while the adults nap and the young boys try to stay out of trouble. Frank and Monroe are constantly playing tag and wrestling, occasionally trying to include one of the adults, and this birthday party was no different. Monroe and Frank ran all over the exhibit, tossing all the decorations around and having a great time!
Frank’s birthday was a grand success due to all the help from our Forage and Volunteer Services departments.
Danielle Leffler is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.