Gandai, a Western lowland gorilla born at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in September, has been paired with a surrogate mother after her biological mother avoided caring for her this week.
Gandai was removed from her mom, Kumbuka, shortly after birth when her mother showed signs of potentially harming the infant. Zookeepers then tried working with Kumbuka, teaching her proper infant holding skills with the hopes that she could ultimately care for Gandai.
Kumbuka is deaf, and handlers theorized she wasn't able to respond to her baby's cries of distress.
On Tuesday Gandai was allowed free contact with Kumbuka in the hopes they wound successfully bond. The mother did hold the infant for a few minutes but apparently lost interest and by the end of the day was actively avoiding Gandai, the zoo said in an email to WJCT News.
Kumbuka did not bring Gandai into her nest to sleep. By the next morning zookeepers could see Kumbuka’s frustration was rising. At that point they decided it was time to move on to Plan B.
On Wednesday, the zoo then introduced Gandai to her surrogate mother, Bulera. The two immediately bonded:
Bulera is an experienced mother who raised 22-year-old Madini and George, who recently turned 4.
Zookeepers said Bulera is a confident and relaxed mother with a calm demeanor.
Although the two are off to a strong start, zoo spokeswoman J.J. Vitale said zookeepers will continue to monitor the two’s interactions behind the scenes before Gandai can be introduced to the public.
Kumbuka is content and not showing any concern about the situation, Vitale said.
The zookeepers anticipate Kumbuka will ultimately play an aunt role to Gandai, like she has done with the other offspring in the group.