Cleveland Metroparks Zoo announced that for the first time in its 139 year history, a baby gorilla has been born there.
The baby was born to Nneka, a 23 year old female, and Mokolo, a 34 year old male.
This was Nneka’s first baby and either she did not know how to care for her baby or she was not interested.
However, Fredrika, or Freddy, the troop’s oldest female, who had raised four infants herself, WAS interested, and she took over.
The team at the zoo had been preparing for this possibility for months. They had brought in a stuffed gorilla baby and had bottle fed the “baby” in front of the female gorillas. They also rewarded the female gorillas if they brought the “baby” to a team member for feeding.
After the actual gorilla baby’s birth, Freddy held the baby almost constantly and brought him to team members for feeding when he seemed hungry, just as she had been taught to do with the stuffed “baby”.
Weighing around three pounds at birth, newborn gorillas are in almost constant bodily contact with their mothers for the first six months of life and they nurse for about three years.
SO much like humans, right?
But one problem – humans, at least in Western societies, usually do not have an older female readily available if they do not know how to care for their first babies – or if they are ill or suffering from postpartum depression. AND parents usually don’t have a team available to help if there is a problem during the early weeks and months of a baby’s life.
What can we learn from this?
Well, it’s been said many times, but it DOES take a village. Or a team. Or a grandmother, aunt, uncle or a few friends.
Before YOUR baby is born, think of who you want on your team.
And if you already have children and don’t feel like you have enough help, try to bring some relatives or friends closer. And if this isn’t possible, look for a parents group in your community where you can meet other parents and possibly make new parent friends with whom you can trade some babysitting, advice or support.
After all, we are ALL primates – and we can learn more about parenting even from our cousins, the gorillas!