Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.
Issue link: http://loumag.epubxp.com/i/718671
64 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 9.16 Photos courtesy of Louisville Zoo Top: Mia Moja, Kindi's mother who passed away shortly after giving birth. Bottom: Paki strokes Kindi's head. who've successfully matched 15-plus orphaned gorillas with surrogates. (Katka does have some experience in raising young primates. A few years ago, she helped care for a trio of orphaned siamangs.) ree gorillas have been born at the Louisville Zoo. One was only here on loan in 2003 and eventually returned with his family to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. In 2010, Mia gave birth to Misha. A few weeks after her birth, while on exhibit, Mshindi grew agitated. A visitor that day remembers him charging his fe- males and barking. Mia was holding Misha when a struggle broke out. One of Misha's lower legs was found in the exhibit space. It's believed Mshindi accidentally ripped it off, perhaps while trying to stop a fight between the females, a duty of the silverback. No keepers can say what happened for sure. But Misha was left with a stump. Mia had trouble caring for the partially disabled baby. So Misha was sent to the Columbus Zoo where they matched her with a surrogate. (A zoo employee in Columbus says that one year later Misha died of a parasite. Keepers were devastated. Misha had become a light for young children suffering from injury or illness.) Decades ago, hand-rearing a gorilla infant mirrored what you might find in a suburban nursery. ere were diapers and cribs, baby food, and maybe even baby clothes. Not surprisingly, those gorillas did not assimilate with their species well. Dusty Lombar- di, the Columbus Zoo's hand-rearing expert, says she knew pro- tocol needed an overhaul in the early '80s. She had been raising a baby gorilla for more than two years, mostly in isolation. When she took the baby to see adult gorillas, it screamed and clung to her in fear. "We have to make changes. You're afraid of gorillas," she remembers thinking. Humans raising gorillas for too long can harm gorillas into the next generation. Studies have shown females may struggle with the ability to mother well and males can exhibit more aggression as adults. Lombardi helped write the manual on how to efficiently raise an orphaned gorilla and get it back with its kind, an ape-ified take on What to Expect When You're Expecting. e recommendations are specific. Baby formula? Use Similac or Nestle Good Start. Right after birth? Hold that baby immediately to prevent hypo- thermia. Never leave the infant alone. "is inspires confidence and a sense of security," the manual reads. (Kindi's keepers have developed a smooth exchange they call the "Kindi shuffle." If Kindi's gripping the furry vest, the keeper in the vest takes one arm out, allowing another keeper to slide in, then repeats with the other arm. It looks a bit like square dancing. ) Finally, remember you're a gorilla. "Make gorilla vocalizations while they are eating," the manual instructs. "It is a guttural, open-mouth chewing sound." Ummm-ummm-ummm. "Conditioning with the infant is key," Lombardi says. "is infant has to know that it's going to be raised by gorillas, next to gorillas. ey have to know the sights, sounds, smells." A big component to a successful surrogacy happens at the "mesh," the welded stainless-steel gates made up of small squares big enough for gorilla fingers to poke through. It's at the mesh where an alchemy known as "gorilla choice" occurs. Lombardi says for surrogacy to work, a female gorilla has to want the orphaned child. A female might feel drawn to the baby due to hormones or obligation or a desire for elevated status in the troop. Whatever the reason, a connection must be organic. When a female starts showing up at the mesh to touch and observe the baby, that gorilla's probably a good candidate for adoptive mom. During Kindi's first introductions at the mesh at just a few weeks old, Paki takes a pink hand towel with Kindi's scent and inhales it. She pokes two fingers through the mesh and lets them rest on top of the baby's fuzzy head. Later, she'll stroke Kindi's elbow and try to slide her finger into the baby's hand, greeting Kindi in the same gentle manner she touched Mia's lifeless body one last time. Like with any new baby, time evaporates. Day 18: Kindi leaves the hospital, moving into an isolated stall in Gorilla Forest. Keepers sleep on a mattress while Kindi rests on them at night. e zoo's nine other gorillas visit Kindi at a baby-gate-sized mesh door dubbed "the howdy door." One month: e mattress is replaced with hay and wood wool, materials Kindi will sleep and crawl around on with her gorilla family. is is also when she's officially named. Kindi means "squirrel" in Swahili, a nod to her mother, nicknamed "squirrel" by keepers for her agility and spry ways. Nine weeks old: Kindi's nearly five pounds. Now on exhibit four days a week, iPhones pop into the air like helium balloons, all angling for a picture of the baby whose fur stands like exclama- tion points atop her head. Ten weeks old: e zoo's veterinarians arrange for imaging of her organs so that researchers can better understand the species in these infant years. Kindi also receives her polio and tetanus vaccinations. Baby gorillas don't cry. When upset, she makes little duck lips and gives off a whimpering hoo hoo hoo. Eleven weeks old: Her black fuzz glows like copper in the sun- light of the outdoor yards. She continues to practice drinking bot-