CINCINNATI – (December, 2014) Baby gorilla “Kamina” (pronounced Kuh-me-nuh) has been gorillafied by a team of human surrogates at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and is ready to move in with gorillas. It has been decided, after placing her with two females in Cincinnati Zoo’s Gorilla World that showed little interest in the infant, that Kamina’s best option is to move to the Columbus Zoo to be introduced to a gorilla group there.
Kamina was born August 16, 2014, at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden (OKC Zoo) in Oklahoma City, OK. After her mother, “Ndjole” (pronounced In-jōlee), did not demonstrate any signs of maternal care toward her baby, the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP) determined that Cincinnati Zoo, after its recent success with the Gladys surrogacy project (View Playlist of Gladys Videos), would be the ideal place for Kamina. She arrived in late September and has been cared for 24/7 by a team of 16 human surrogates since then.
“Our team of human surrogates has done everything right,” said Ron Evans, curator of primates. “Kamina has learned all of the behaviors she needs to know in order to be successful in a gorilla group. Unfortunately, neither of the adult females that we hoped would bond with her did.”
These types of very delicate introductions are never guaranteed to work out, explained Evans, so it’s important to have a contingency plan. “We first introduced Kamina to Samantha, the most experienced mom in Gorilla World, who allowed the baby to touch her but did not pick her up. Kamina was a real pro and behaved as we hoped she would, approaching Samantha, trying to grab onto her and not overreacting when things weren’t going as she wanted. For whatever reason Samantha simply did not desire to pick her up and even pushed Kamina away at times. This was very surprising based on the great interactions seen prior. However it is not an issue that can be forced and we simply have to accept what we see,” said Evans. After observing the two for an extended period of time, it was decided to augment the introduction with M’linzi and Gladys. They were added with Samantha and Kamina but with no change. Although Kamina had been coping well and coming over for her feedings it was best to put her back with the human surrogates for a while.
“Mara,” a nineteen-year-old female who co-parented Gladys for a few months, had been watching Kamina’s gorillafication the entire time also. She showed an affinity for Kamina when staff brought her nearby and was given some time next to Kamina through the ‘howdy’ introduction mesh. Unfortunately, the same results were had, Kamina behaved well and Mara simply did not wish to pick her up.
“All the gorillas are very connected in their behaviors. They can be influenced overtly by happenings around them or sometimes by something very subtly. For whatever reason, things were not clicking for them when it came to Kamina. Once again, surrogate motherhood is not something that we want to push too hard. It has to be fluid and desired,” said Evans. “We do not go into things lightly when it comes to baby gorilla surrogacies and have contingency plans on top of contingency plans.”
After discussing all possible scenarios with the surrogacy team, Evans, the Gorilla SSP and the primate staff from Columbus Zoo, an institution also known for its gorilla surrogacy successes, determined that a move to Columbus would be best for Kamina. “We look forward to our continued partnership with the Cincinnati Zoo and AZA’s gorilla SSP. Columbus Zoo has introduced 14 surrogate infants with five coming from other zoos to date. Our experienced team is in place and ready to go,” said Dusty Lombardi, animal care specialist at the Columbus Zoo.
“The good news is Kamina is very healthy and her gorilla skills are extremely sharp. She is still at the right age where she can cope well with modifications in her routines. My staff and I will be traveling to Columbus for a period of time to help facilitate Kamina’s smooth transition. We have had a long collaborative relationship with our great colleagues in Columbus for many years. I am very happy that she will be in their fine care. The gorilla community is a tight knit bunch and we all support each other. As much as we would like to have Kamina stay in Cincinnati, it’s all about what is best for her right now.” said Evans.