When introducing you to our bachelors, Louis and Kuchimba, I talked about the fact that they mostly live by themselves, and we put them together several times each week for regular playdates. I thought I’d talk a little bit more about these and provide an update in this week’s blog entry.
One of the challenges that we faced in the past was that Kuchimba didn’t always respect Louis’ space or his desire to rest and relax rather than play constantly. As a result, the two of them had some issues that they needed to work out. During a period of time apart, Kuchimba really flourished, both mentally and physically. He underwent a significant growth spurt and matured quite a bit. When we put them back together, it was clear that there was a different, more mature dynamic between the two boys. We have been very conservative with our management, so as to not allow Kuchimba to push Louis’ buttons too much, and these sessions (ever the mom that I am, I started calling them gorilla playdates!) have been very heavily monitored.
For those of you who have seen one of these playdates, you’ll know that the boys do quite a bit of playing, and really enjoy their time together. Since putting them back together, we were careful not to leave them together for too long of a period of time. We wanted to make sure that these sessions remained positive and that we stopped any aggression as a result of too much “together time” before it started. But we were finding that once they were done eating and playing, both would take a midday nap and were very calm and relaxed. Because the boys were doing so wonderfully together, we decided that we could start leaving them together for longer periods of time.
They are really responding well to this increased time together and seem to have calmed down substantially. During the shorter playdates, Louis and Kuchimba played hard. While we saw almost exclusively positive behavior, their time together was still intense (wrestling, play biting and play chasing), and we were very conscious of the fact that in the past, Kuchimba had a penchant for pushing it a little too far, causing Louis to get frustrated and become aggressive towards Kuchimba (this is very appropriate gorilla behavior—Louis is very patient with Kuchimba, but it’s his job to remind Kuchimba that Louis is in charge and will often deliver “pressure bites” as a warning that he better knock it off).
However, once we started to leave them together for longer periods of time, we began to notice that the boys are much calmer and don’t play as much. While it’s fun to watch them play together (and they still do sometimes), it’s nice to see them in a more calm, stable state as well. I believe that now they know that they will have more time together, they don’t feel the need to jam all of their activity and play in.
If you haven’t seen Louis and Kuchimba together, be sure to come by and check them out. We aim to put them together on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, but as staffing and animal needs arise, we often will reschedule their sessions for another day.
By Kristen Farley-Rambo, Primary Gorilla Keeper