There have been some recent changes in the way that we manage our bachelors, so I thought I’d write a little bit about that in this week’s edition of Gorilla Grumbles.
A couple of months ago I told you that Louis and Kuchimba had calmed down substantially during their playdates, and that we had become comfortable with keeping them together for longer periods of time and without quite as heavy monitoring as we’d been providing. We’ve continued to mostly stick to our Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday schedule, and they have typically been together from about 11:00-4:30 on those days. There were a couple of weeks that we had to reschedule a playdate, causing us to do them on consecutive days, and I found that on those days, the boys were much calmer on the second day. We hadn’t seen play behavior in several weeks, and we were noticing that when we put them together, both Louis and Kuchimba started each session with quite a bit of displaying towards each other. It’s important to note that this wasn’t necessarily a negative change to their dynamic; but a change nonetheless (when I use the term display, I simply mean show off- we have not seen an increase in aggression or negative contact). I started wondering if they felt like they had to assert themselves each time they were together, as if to figure out and/or remind each other who was in charge, and further wondered if we put them together on consecutive days, if they would just pick up where they left off on the previous day, which was calm and relaxed.
During the last two weeks I have put the boys together for playdates on three consecutive days. Both weeks, the initial mood became calmer each day, and by the third day I saw them playing again! Moving forward we want to maintain a balance between allowing as much socialization as each can tolerate, but make sure we don’t push the limit too much and that the social interactions and benefit remain positive.
The take-home message here is that bachelor groups are fluid, and the dynamics are always changing. As their keeper, a key (and challenging!) part of my job is to watch and interpret their behavior to ensure that when their interactions change, so too does the way that we manage them. So while I’d love to be able to advertise a schedule for our bachelor playdates, unfortunately it has become more difficult for me to predict when they will be together. Furthermore, with the changing of seasons and the eventual loss of outdoor space, it will be interesting to see what other changes we’ll see in the next several weeks. Likewise, as we move forward with breeding Honi and Kira with Motuba, it is entirely possible that we’ll see changes in how the boys get along.
By Kristen Farley-Rambo, Primary Gorilla Keeper