Humans to stand in for gorillas at the Cincinnati Zoo

March 6, 2013 by  

Humans are going to put their parenting skills to the test soon—on a baby gorilla.

A zoo in South Texas is going to send a baby female gorilla – born there approximately four weeks ago – to the Cincinnati Zoo. The infant’s mother has ignored her since she was born, making the move necessary.

For the next few months, human surrogates at the Cincinnati Zoo will ape (pardon the pun) gorillas’ natural behavior with the intention of raising the youngster as a gorilla would. The ultimate aim is to place her with one of two mature female gorillas now at Cincinnati in the hope that the older female will raise the baby as her own.

One of the females is in fact the youngster’s great-grandmother, and it is hoped she will be the one to take to the baby. For the meantime, humans will have to do.

In order to be successful, the humans will wear dark clothing, even gorilla suits, and try to act like gorillas as much as possible. They will attempt to sound like gorillas, carry the baby the way a gorilla would, and “talk” to her the way another gorilla might.

The most difficult part of the task is making appropriate sounds, says Ron Evans, Primate Team Leader. For instance, Evans says the sounds a gorilla makes while feeding get louder and louder until they reach a crescendo, a hard process to imitate.

Zoo officials could work with brochure printers to create a piece for distribution in the zoo that will explain this fascinating project.