Gorilla Treeway Update, Part 2


In line with my blog entry from last week, I thought I’d talk about an interesting byproduct of Gorilla Treeway: how the gorillas have been responding to their previous exhibit spaces. 

Much like I’ve discussed before, each individual has had a different response. A couple of our gorillas—Louis and Kira mostly—are really great at shifting between spaces and are super food-motivated.  They really don’t care where they go as long as there’s food in it for them. Once they got used to it, they’ve easily accepted the trail into their repertoire of exhibit options. 

Motuba, while he doesn’t love exploring out in the trail, does seem to enjoy hanging out at the bottom of the stairs that they use to access the trail and in the off-exhibit space connected to the trail.  Like Louis and Kira, he’s a really good boy and goes wherever I ask him to without much hesitation. 

What’s been really interesting to me is how Honi and Kuchimba have reacted to their old exhibit spaces, the dayroom and the yard. In the past, Kuchimba has generally not liked being in the dayroom but has always enjoyed the yard. His favorite hangout spot, however, is in our off-exhibit outdoor space to which the trail is connected. It’s essentially a very large room that is outside and meshed over.  He could spend an entire day out there and be a happy camper, and honestly, it’s still his favorite place to be!

What has changed, however, is Kuchimba’s views of the dayroom and the yard. For whatever reason, he has decided that he does in fact enjoy being in the dayroom, and he now even prefers it to the yard. Sometimes, when I ask him to shift outside in the yard, he flat out refuses! He either just sits there looking at me as if to say “you want me to do what?!” or he’ll go to the door leading into the dayroom and ust sit there, refusing to go any further. I’m not really sure what has made him have the change of heart towards the dayroom, but there’s a lot about Kuchimba’s silly, quirky behavior that stumps me sometimes!

Honi’s another one who we’ve seen change with regard to exhibit preference. Like Kuchimba, she has always enjoyed being outside in the yard. Now that she has the trail to also hang out in—and she absolutely loves it out there—she has no interest in being out in the yard anymore. She does continue to do well in her indoor exhibit, though.  I’m not sure if it’s more of a mentality that “if I’m going to be outside, I’d rather be in the trail” or if by shifting into the dayroom, she’s still next to the trail in proximity, so she’s hopeful that at some point in the day I’ll send her out. We always switch our gorilla groups around lunchtime, and if she’s in the dayroom while I go out to set up the trail for the next group’s lunch, she comes over, ever hopeful that hers is the one I send out. 

I’m interested to see what will happen next spring after having a winter off from the trail. They tend to “reset” themselves, if you will, and readjust their attitudes towards different spaces each spring, when they are excited to get outside again. Hopefully, Motuba and Kuchimba will spend some time over the winter thinking about how much they miss the trail, and how they really missed out on exploring it this summer (although I’m not giving up hope—summer’s not over yet!).  I’m sure they will just run right out next year and see what they’ve been missing.

Kristen Farley-RamboBy Kristen Farley-Rambo, Primary Gorilla Keeper