A baby gorilla has been adopted at a Florida zoo… by another gorilla.
We don’t like to admit it all too often here at TheThings, but some people just aren’t cut out to be parents. Take Kumbuka, a young female gorilla at the Jacksonville Zoo and Garden. She’s had three kids and lost two of them. And by lost, we don’t mean “took them to the mall and forgot to bring them home.”
Her third baby, Gandai, was under intense observation from zoo staff for being born to an “at risk” parent. When Kumbuka started holding Gandai incorrectly and ignoring his advances, staff knew they had to step in, The Florida Times reported.
So in February, Jacksonville Zoo staff took Gandai and started hand-rearing him. This is not exactly ideal for zookeepers; since Gandai was just 5 months old, he required constant, round-the-clock care. Zookeepers took shifts keeping an eye on Gandai as they simultaneously searched for a suitable replacement mom.
Luckily, they had one in the next enclosure over in the form of 30-year-old Bulera.
Bulera had previously reared two of her own babies successfully, so zookeepers knew she had those motherly instincts. The only question was whether or not Bulera would be open to adopting Gandai.
To find out, Jacksonville had a small meet and greet on February 27th. Gandai was placed in an enclosure while Bulera was ushered in. Then, they waited.
At first, Gandai seemed very nervous and refused to let go of the cage. However, Bulera approached cautiously and leaned down to greet the young gorilla by nuzzling her in the face.
Gandai and Bulera playing with camera
The next big step in Gandai’s journey is for her and surrogate mother, Bulera, to spend time outside together. Our team plans to give them access to the gorilla exhibit tomorrow (Thursday, March 7) once it's 55º and sunny, around 10-11am. Come by the African Forest to say hello 👋 but please no knocking on glass windows or yelling. We want to make sure this is a comfortable experience. If all goes well, we hope to have Gandai and Bulera out for a portion of everyday moving forward!Posted by Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens on Wednesday, March 6, 2019
“She was holding the baby within minutes and comforting her with soft vocal rumbles,” zoo spokesperson JJ Vitale told the Florida Times. “She carried her around the enclosure, cuddled with her, brought her into her nest to sleep and responded quickly to any cries. Even better, Gandai is smitten with her adoptive mother."
Vitale added, "The pairing with Gandai and Bulera is a joyful occasion and the two gorillas are bonding well.”
After a few weeks of observation, zookeepers report that Bulera is a much better fit for Gandai as she’s a patient, confident, and relaxed mom. Their next step is to be placed in an outdoor enclosure to see how they fair. Jacksonville staff are hopeful that Bulera will take care of Gandai until she’s able to be on her own without supervision.