Archive for the 'Apes and Monkeys' Category

Happy Gorilla Birthday, Frank!

Posted at 9:46 am September 2, 2010 by Karyl Carmignani

On September 4, Frank, the crazy-cute gorilla at the San Diego Zoo, will be two years old. This is cause for celebration on many levels and not only because lowland gorillas are an endangered species. Frank’s mother, Azizi, a hand-raised, first-time mom, was not able to hold Frank correctly to nurse him, so keepers had to intervene. Rather than removing Frank from his troop to raise him in the nursery, the committed keepers devised a “rear assisting” program, which allowed Azizi (and his two aunts) to raise Frank while keepers helped out by feeding him and quickly returning him to his family. This strategy was wildly successful, as Frank is now a rotund, confident, 40-pound (18-kilogram) gorilla, adored by his family and fans. (Read Frank the Gorilla: First Year.)


Enrichment: Fun For Everyone

Posted at 3:24 pm August 25, 2010 by Yvette Kemp

Panda Bai Yun manipulates an enrichment item with her bamboo.

Enrichment is a big part of what keepers do at most zoos these days. But did you know that it isn’t just the keepers who are involved in making enrichment opportunities for our animals? 

Determining the type of enrichment that an animal will get is a very big process. Kym Nelson mentioned in a past blog post that enrichment needs to be approved, and that is very true (see New View of Enrichment). So how does it work? 

First, the keeper comes up with an idea. That idea needs to fulfill various criteria: is this an item this species would use? Will it cause friction among the group if there is more than one animal? What behavior is the enrichment meant to encourage? Is it store-bought or will it need to be made? If so, what materials are involved? 


Going Ape, Part II

Posted at 9:32 am June 18, 2010 by Karyl Carmignani


Karyl shadowed the Zoo’s primate keepers during a Visit-A-Job program. Be sure to read Going Ape, Part 1.

Another interesting aspect to a zoo keeper’s job is “shifting animals,” where you bring the animals that are out on exhibit inside, and send out the group that has been off exhibit. Sounds easy, right? I went to bonobos to see how it’s done.


Going Ape, Part I

Posted at 12:27 pm June 11, 2010 by Karyl Carmignani

Karyl tossed food to Memba and his troop, out on exhibit that day.

Few things in life get me leaping out of bed at 4:48 a.m. like the prospect of “shadowing” primate keepers at the San Diego Zoo. We have a terrific Visit-a-Job program where a dozen employees are randomly selected each month to visit an area of their choice within the Zoological Society of San Diego for a day. It’s a great learning experience and also gives employees a clearer understanding of the “big picture.” I chose to visit the great apes, as Frank, the one-and-a-half-year-old baby gorilla, is my primate soul mate, and I’d give anything to feed him breakfast (and lunch and dinner) and gaze into his chocolate brown eyes. I’d give him a kidney if he needed it, but I hope it won’t come to that.


Langur Name Revealed

Posted at 12:48 pm May 10, 2010 by Beth McDonald

Zoli and her mother


We have been so excited to learn the results of all your votes (see post Name the Langur). It looks like the name Zoli is the winner by a landslide! It received 216 votes (the names Kayla and Kalani received 37 and 38 votes, respectively—a close call for second place.) We even got 71 comments on the San Diego Zoo’s Facebook page about the contest.

Little Zoli is doing great, and since the weather has been warmer, she is exploring the outdoor exhibit. All the silvered leaf langur babies are having a great time climbing to the very top of their exhibit, then just letting go, using the trees as a trampoline.


Gorilla Update: Troop Memba

Posted at 9:50 am May 7, 2010 by Debbie Andreen

Memba diligently watches over his troop.

The San Diego Zoo offers scheduled Keeper Talks throughout the day. On Monday, I took in a talk given by April Bove, one of our gorilla keepers. She explained that the Zoo has 11 gorillas, divided into two troops, each led by a handsome and impressive silverback (adult male). The two troops alternate days: while one troop is outside being admired by Zoo visitors, the other troop spends its “off” day indoors in the spacious gorilla “bedrooms.” On this day it was Memba and his troop’s turn to be outside.

Memba is the only wild-born gorilla at the Zoo. He weighs about 350 pounds and takes his duties as guardian of the troop very seriously, always keeping tabs on each member’s whereabouts and breaking up any fights. It can be a stressful job: in the wild, silverbacks are lucky to live 30 years, but Memba is currently 41 years old and doing well! His troop includes females Alvila and Jessica, and sons Mandazzi and Ekuba.


Name the Langur

Posted at 9:56 am April 27, 2010 by Beth McDonald

Help us name this little langur!

Our youngest silvered leaf langur was born on October 14, 2009, to father Aden and mother LiLi. She is the third baby born in this troop (see Langurs: From Orange to Silver). I have been referring to her as “Teeny-Tiny Baby,” because she was the smallest of the three babies at birth. When she was born, the other youngsters, Bala and Aluna, were very interested in the new addition.


Monkey Habitat in Vietnam

Posted at 2:32 pm March 30, 2010 by Corrin LaCombe

A Tonkin snub-nosed monkey family. Photo by Le Khac Quyet.

I was recently invited by Dr. Chia Tan, head of the San Diego Zoo’s Asia Conservation Program, to conduct a rapid assessment of the needs, livelihoods, and land use practices of local people living near Khau Ca, Vietnam, a protected area containing the largest remaining population of the critically endangered Tonkin snub-nosed monkey Rhinopithecus avunculus. What I learned while there is that the only thing more jagged and complex than the virtually impenetrable limestone karst forests of the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey’s home range is the social matrix of the nearby communities.


Manu National Park: Worth the Bites

Posted at 4:28 pm February 11, 2010 by Ron Swaisgood

Bathing with piranhas, Alan Lieberman, left, and I brave the waters to clean off at the end of a hot day.

In Cocha Cashu, sometimes you focus on the bad: the oppressive heat, the mosquitoes, the lurking fear of the unknown. We were welcomed to Estación Biológica Cocha Cashu (EBCC) with record-breaking heat (see previous post, A Walk in the Woods with John Terborgh). The mercury soared to 96 degrees Fahrenheit (36 degrees Celsius) on our second day. That may not sound that hot, but put yourself in a terrarium at 90 plus and you’ll know what I mean.


A Walk in the Woods with John Terborgh

Posted at 8:26 am February 9, 2010 by Ron Swaisgood

Dr. John Terborgh, veteran tropical ecologist, gives us the tour of Cocha Cashu, the oxbow lake namesake of the field station.

Dr. John Terborgh, veteran tropical ecologist, gives us the tour of Cocha Cashu, the oxbow lake namesake of the field station.

Let’s put this into context: exactly 20 years ago, I picked up a copy of John Terborgh’s Five New World Primates. I was a first-year graduate student in the animal behavior graduate group at the University of California, Davis, about to begin my studies of titi monkeys at the Davis Primate Center. (Finding myself drawn to field biology, I later decided to work with some local nature – ground squirrels and rattlesnakes – for my dissertation.) Before even breaking the binding of the book, I studied the rich illustration on the cover depicting titi, spider, howler, and capuchin monkeys in a dark primeval forest. I longed to work in the field with wild primates, and as I began to turn the pages, a whole new world opened up to me. This place, as John Terborgh described, was magical: ancient, intact, and untouched. Here, even most of the indigenous people are “uncontacted,” living with almost no knowledge of the outside world. This, it seemed, was what I really wanted – an adventure in a true wilderness.