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About Author: Jami Pawlowski

Posts by Jami Pawlowski

6

A Very Happy First Birthday

Joanne's first birthday is, well, the icing on the cake in her amazing story.

Joanne’s first birthday was, well, the icing on the cake in her amazing story.

March 12 was a big day at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Baby gorilla Joanne turned one year old, and the staff threw her an epic birthday party! Joanne’s first few weeks in this world required a giant team effort. Unable to deliver Joanne on her own, mom Imani had to undergo a C-section. Subsequently, due to minor health complications, Joanne needed around-the-clock care from a team of veterinary staff, keeper staff from both the Safari Park and the Zoo, and human neonatal specialists.

Fittingly, one year later, a second team of enthusiastic people assembled to help celebrate this joyful milestone. Safari Park volunteers and staff from the forage, horticulture, and mammal departments worked hard to transform the gorilla exhibit into a lively birthday bash. Decorations included ice cakes and cupcakes, fresh browse branches, streamers, papier-mâché balloons, colorful chalk drawings, cardboard box gifts and animals, and even an over-sized dollhouse large enough for Joanne and the other two youngsters in the group, six-year-old Frank and three-year-old Monroe, to climb on!

The entire troop partied all morning long, spreading out and claiming different areas of the exhibit and clusters of decorations to explore and enjoy. A lively and vibrant one-year-old, Joanne was able to partake in the festivities right alongside the rest of her family. Her favorite treat items seemed to be the flowering browse branches and the ice cakes, but she was also greatly entertained simply by bouncing around investigating all the colorful décor.

These days we see Joanne becoming a more active member of her gorilla troop. She interacts more often with other individuals besides her mom—including play sessions with Frank and Monroe. She has also shown brave interest in Winston, her rather stoic dad who is not often seen breaking character to fool around with the kids. When not playing with others, Joanne easily entertains herself. You can often see her using Imani as a jungle gym, or climbing up and sliding down ropes and smooth rocks around the exhibit. To a one-year-old gorilla, the world is your playground!

Jami Pawlowski is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Baby Joanne’s Growing Diet.

6

Baby Joanne’s Growing Diet

Little Joanne is exploring a whole range of new tastes as she begins to add solid foods to her daily diet.

Little Joanne is exploring a whole range of  tastes and textures as she begins adding solid foods to her diet.

Baby gorilla Joanne continues to grow and develop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Baby gorillas will continue to nurse until mom chooses to wean them, usually between ages three to four years. Still, at 10 months old and with a full set of baby teeth, Joanne has developed quite a healthy appetite for solid foods!

Western lowland gorillas are herbivores, meaning that they eat only plant material. Each day, we offer the gorillas at the Park a variety of fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, tree branches harvested from the our browse farm, and high-fiber primate biscuits. Little Joanne is developing a taste for her favorites, favorites, although her opinion seems to change almost daily! When Joanne either eagerly devours or spits out something we have offered her, we consider ourselves “updated” as to her preferences.

Keepers feed the gorillas in different ways throughout the day. We spread food items around the exhibit to allow the gorillas to forage at their own pace in addition to calling them to a spot or “station” to receive individual diets specifically measured out for each gorilla. During these station-feeding sessions, Joanne has learned that it benefits her to put some distance between herself and mom, Imani. While Imani is generally patient about letting Joanne finish chewing whatever food is in her mouth, anything in Joanne’s hand or on the ground around her is fair game!

At lunchtime on exhibit, Imani and Joanne station on the upper right-hand hill of the gorilla exhibit, and keepers can toss items to each individually. Morning station feedings in the bedrooms are set aside for training and generally occur as a one-on-one keeper to gorilla session. Since Joanne has become interested in participating in these sessions, she often gets her own keeper with to interact with while Imani focuses on her training on the other side of the bedroom.

For now, these sessions with Joanne are helping her form relationships with her keepers and build up her confidence away from mom. As little Joanne grows older, keepers will begin training her to offer different behaviors useful in our care of her, using her favorite food items as positive reinforcement. As for what those favorite food items will be, Joanne will certainly let us know in her own way!

Jami Pawlowski is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Gorilla Joanne: Little Miss Personality.

11

Gorilla Joanne: Little Miss Personality

Joanne enjoys some kale with her father, Winston.

Joanne enjoys some kale with her father, Winston.

Now seven months old, gorilla Joanne is starting to develop her own little personality at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. These days she can be seen spending more and more time on her own two feet (and hands), investigating her world. An expert at clinging to her mother, Imani, while traveling about the exhibit, little Joanne rarely stays in one position. Everything Mom is doing, Joanne wants to get a good view.

You can see her riding on Imani’s back, hip, arm, leg, upside-down, right-side up, and everything in between. As soon as Mom sits down, Joanne lowers herself to the ground and is off exploring. The little girl has started to notice her older brothers wrestling nearby and seems eager to participate. Still a bit too small to get into the fray, you can often see Joanne watching intently or bouncing around by herself in the background.

Joanne is always very interested in eating anything Imani has collected; her favorites are lettuce, tomatoes, and acacia browse. While Mom will usually share her meals, it may be asking too much to expect Winston to share his favorite food—kale!

Jami Pawlowski is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Gorilla Frank Turns 6.

Update: We’ll be celebrating gorilla Vila’s 57th on Thursday, November 6, starting at 9 a.m. at the Safari Park. We hope you can come wish her well1

7

Gorilla Frank Turns 6

Frank enjoys one of his birthday popsicles.

Frank enjoys one of his birthday popsicles.

Frank, the biggest gorilla brother at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, turned 6 years old on September 4, 2014! Keepers threw a birthday party for Frank and the entire troop, complete with paper streamers, decorated cardboard box presents, popcorn, sugar-free popsicles, and a big birthday banner.

With so much to explore out on the exhibit that morning, the members of the troop all quickly spread out and selected their own treats. Frank’s grandmother, 36-year-old Kamilah, claimed the largest decorated box and the popcorn forage pile inside it, while the Birthday Boy preferred the colorful popsicles. Lately, Frank has been trying to demonstrate how grown up he is by carrying his 6-month-old “sister” Joanne around the exhibit. (Joanne’s mother, Imani, had cared for Frank as a baby when his own mother was not able to do so.) Frank enjoys this responsibility so much that he is sometimes reluctant to give Joanne back when her mother thinks it’s time!

Before we know it, Joanne will be big enough to enjoy running around the exhibit on her own and keeping up with her big brother Frank and 3-year-old half-brother Monroe!

He found goodies in each box.

He found goodies in each box.

Winston and little Monroe had fun with the birthday gifts, too!

Winston and little Monroe had fun with the birthday gifts, too!

Jami Pawlowski is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Gorilla Baby: Movin’ and Groovin’.

6

Gorilla Baby: Movin’ and Groovin’

Imani & Baby

Joanne, the littlest gorilla at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, is in the process of learning how to crawl. So far she has mastered rolling over onto her stomach and has gotten very good at propping herself up on all fours and scooting forward inch by inch. During this independent time, her mother, Imani, usually keeps a watchful eye on the other kids in the group, 5-year-old Frank and 3-year-old Monroe, who are eager to play with their new sibling, sometimes a bit too roughly. Growing up with older brothers will certainly help to make Joanne one tough little girl!

The biggest adventure the little one has had on her own so far was witnessed by ecstatic keepers during the gorillas’ lunchtime. Using fistfuls of grass as leverage, Imani’s little girl was able to crawl about three feet uphill, a bit more rock climbing than crawling, while Mom munched on broccoli and watched her baby’s feat from over her shoulder. Worn out, Joanne plopped down on her stomach and let Mom retrieve her.

Every day brings an exciting new accomplishment for this 3-month-old!

Jami Pawlowski is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Gorilla Baby: Chew on This.

11

Gorilla Baby: Chew on This

Can you see those baby teeth yet?

Can you see those baby teeth yet?

At two and a half months old, gorilla Imani’s little girl is starting to get her first teeth. Much like human infants, the first teeth to come in for a baby gorilla are typically the front teeth. Imani’s baby’s two bottom central incisors have already appeared, and the top two are showing signs of poking through.

To help the process along, the baby has been chewing on everything she can get in her mouth. Pretty much anything will do: her own hand, arm, the giant piece of browse that Mom is holding…

It’ll probably be a month or two before we see this little one eat solid foods, but in the meantime, she is developing the tools she will need to do so. What fun to watch her grow here at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park!

Jami Pawlowski is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Gorilla Baby Yoga.

4

Gorilla Baby Yoga

Imani's baby demonstrates her "Super Girl" pose!

Imani’s baby demonstrates her “Super Girl” pose!

Gorilla Imani’s baby girl has been getting a lot of exercise lately. In order to give her arms some much-needed rest, Imani has been testing out new ways to hold and carry her little girl, who is now almost 7 weeks old. When navigating the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s gorilla exhibit, it’s helpful for a gorilla to have use of both of her hands. In order to do so, Imani has been trusting the strength of the little one to hold on by herself while Mom forages. With fistfuls of hair, baby clings to Imani’s chest while Mom climbs the fallen tree structures, gathers greens from branches of the Dovyalis caffra trees, or shakes sunflower seeds from a bamboo feeder.

When resting in the root ball or the exhibit alcoves, Mom has been holding her little girl in different, challenging positions. Imani has been seen resting her baby in her lap to allow her to stretch her tiny arms and legs. While lying on her back, Imani will also sometimes use her hands and feet to hold her baby high above her in what we keepers have dubbed the Super Girl pose. As the littlest gorilla in the troop becomes more curious and aware of her surroundings, these new positions will give her a new perspective on the exciting world around her.

Jami Pawlowski is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Baby Gorilla at Home.

12

Baby Gorilla at Home

Imani cradles her infant while on exhibit at the Safari Park.

Imani cradles her infant while on exhibit at the Safari Park.

These past five weeks have been some of the most hectic and rewarding weeks that my fellow keepers and I have experienced on the job! Born via C-section and needing treatment for pneumonia and a collapsed lung, gorilla Imani’s baby girl had a bit of a rough start to life (see video below). Thanks to the dedicated team of people working around the clock, and her own fighting spirit, she eventually pulled through. Since being introduced to her mom and other gorilla troop members at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, life has been smooth sailing.

Imani has, so far, been the picture of an ideal mother. During the first couple of days of their introduction, Imani experimented with different ways of holding her new baby girl. While raising her “adopted” son Frank, he would often ride on Imani’s back. Gorilla moms usually carry their kids on their back until they reach about three months old. Imani quickly learned that this little newborn would much rather be held close to the chest and would demonstrate the strength of her rehabilitated lungs by crying loudly if Mom tried anything else! Look for Imani out on exhibit carrying the baby, usually in her right arm, while foraging. Having an infant in her arms has not slowed Imani down or diminished her appetite for kale, romaine, sunflower seeds, a tasty piece of acacia browse, you name it!

After Mom has had her fill, one of Imani’s favorite spots to sit down and nurse her baby is the heated pad in the giant root ball at the base of the fallen tree-climbing structure. You can often see Imani resting here at different times throughout the day, baby cradled in her arms. Watch for Imani holding the baby’s hand in her own or grooming her while she nurses. Frank, now 5½ years old, is usually not too far away, and the other gorillas frequently take turns passing by for a peek as they carry on with their own activities.

At the end of the day, the troop returns to the bedroom area for the night. After dinner, Imani usually makes a nest of hay large enough for her, her baby, and five-year-old big brother Frank to sleep together. Come to the Safari Park and watch with us as this little girl grows up!

Jami Pawlowski is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.