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Pongo's Primates

Meet Pongo the Sumatran orangutan and his fellow primates, and get an animal care professional’s perspective on the care and training of our amazing orangutan, gorilla, monkey and lemur collections.

Wednesday, April 23 
As keepers, one of the highlights of our day can be enjoying some one-on-one time with the animals. The other night I got to enjoy some time watching one of our female gorillas, Sukari, with her infant, Anaka, who is nearly 8 months old. Anaka is in a very playful stage now, but for Sukari, this also means she can be kind of a pest! Sukari was just trying to have fun with some new enrichment and then eat her chow, but Anaka was climbing all over her, biting her and repeatedly bouncing on her mom's head. You could almost hear Sukari saying "Can I just have five minutes to myself?" Since Anaka is still so young, she is not yet able to spend a lot of time playing with the other young gorillas. It won't be long, though, before Sukari gives her a little more freedom to play and get all of her energy out before dinnertime! Photo by Jennifer Williams.
Kristina Krickbaum
Keeper II, Primates
 
Monday, April 21 
Everyone has his or her own way of saying “hello,” from the grumpy businessman who grunts a short greeting because his coffee hasn’t kicked in yet to the bubbly first-grade teacher who excitedly waves to each student as they enter her classroom. It is no different in the world of primates here at the Zoo. Each species and each individual of those species greets us zookeepers differently in the morning.
 
The golden lion tamarins, when they first see us, usually give a sharp, shrill call, and then after double-checking to ensure we are not a predator, come down to us and give a softer trill. They then stay pretty close and curious to see if we’ve brought them a morning snack. The Geoffroy’s tamarins are usually right near the door as soon as we walk into the building. They give these medium-pitched, birdlike calls that sound like “Wwhhaaattt,” as if asking if we have brought them any yummy snacks. The sloths are usually quiet, but occasionally the male, Cocoa, blows air and slowly peeks over the edge of his crate as if asking, “Hey! What’s for breakfast?”
 
In orangutans, as soon as they hear the key in the door, the mature males all start their notorious long calls, swooping and swinging on the various ropes in their areas. One male in particular, Alan, will come up next to the mesh and sit down and “talk” to the keeper present, informing him or her on how his night has gone and what he would like to do for the day.
 
In gorillas, there are happy grumbles to be heard all around as a keeper enters the door. The grumbles sound very close to the “grumbles” we give when we’ve taken a bite of something we really enjoy. Each gorilla, of course, grumbles differently. Kekla, a mature silverback, grumbles quietly as if it’s only just for the keeper who’s close by. Stadi, Kekla’s half-brother, grumbles so loudly that it can be heard in every corner of the gorilla building. And then there’s Shamba, one of my personal favorites; she is the oldest female gorilla here at Zoo Atlanta. She gives a short, staccato grumble as if to say, “Good morning, young whippersnapper! Where’s my breakfast?”
 
As keepers, one of our goals here at the Zoo is to ensure that the animals’ lives are enriched and fulfilled each day. It’s pretty cool that they do the same for us in their own special way.
Lori Kirkland
Seasonal Keeper, Primates   
 
Wednesday, April 16
The gorillas are going to kick off Easter weekend with their annual egg hunts, a favorite among visitors! This Saturday at 2 p.m., join the gorilla family group (led by Taz) as they hunt for their Jell-O eggs, sugar-free of course. The bachelor group will also participate in an egg hunt at 2:30 p.m., but our great group of enrichment volunteers has also prepared Easter baskets, papier mache eggs and more for them to enjoy! 
 
The gorillas really enjoy their enrichment and get so excited when we bring them inside and they see us setting up their exhibits with the fun items. Enrichment plays a vital role in how we care for the animals. The egg hunts are intended to stimulate interest and foraging behavior we would see in the wild. How many eggs do you think a gorilla can hold? Come out this Saturday, April 19, and see all of our primates and other Zoo animals enjoying their treats! 
Jodi Carrigan
Senior Keeper, Primates

Monday, April 14
We recently moved our female drill, Drew, over to live with Bobby and Inge, our older male and female drill group. Switching groups around requires a lot of planning. The keepers devised an introduction plan in order to plan out every situation and make sure all staff is on the right page. Once the plan was in place, we separated Drew from her original group and placed her in a mesh-to-mesh “howdy” introduction next to Bobby and Inge. This allows them to see and touch each other through the mesh to see how they might get along. There were many positive interactions between them, so keepers felt it was time to move forward and do one full introduction at a time. All interactions between the three drills were extremely positive, and they are all now together with the Schmidt’s guenons and colobus monkeys in Small African Primate Yard Two. You can now see Drew hanging around her new home. She has been enjoying digging holes all around the yard and sitting in the tree with Bobby.
Kelsey Miller
Keeper I, Primates 

Wednesday, April 9
It has been great observing Pongo learn everything he needs to know to be an adult orangutan. One of his recent accomplishments is learning how to build a nest on his own. He has been sitting in the middle of hay piles and sculpting the hay into small nests for himself. He carefully fluffs it up and moves it around himself in a circle. Last week, he even used a blanket to build a nest, which shows he has definitely been watching his mom, Blaze, build her nests, because one of her favorite nest-building materials is blankets.  
Lynn Yakubinis
Keeper III, Primates 

Monday, April 7
Willie B., Jr., will turn 16 years old tomorrow. Also known as Kidogo, he is the only male offspring of the late Willie B. Like his father, he is a very large and playful gorilla. Kidogo currently lives in a bachelor group with Jasiri at the Dewar Wildlife Trust. The Dewar Wildlife Trust is a 100-acre AZA-certified facility located in the north Georgia Mountains in the town of Morganton. To learn more about Zoo Atlanta’s partnership with the DWT, visit zooatlanta.org/dewar.
Bernie Gregory
Lead Keeper, Primates
 

Wednesday, April 2
If you are out in front of the orangutan exhibits, you might have noticed a change with who was in each of the yards. Yesterday was a busy day in the orangutan building. We moved all 13 orangutans around the building to give them a chance to go out in new yards.  This experience is enriching to not only them but to the keepers too. One of my favorite switches we did is moving Sumatran orangutans Alan and Biji to Habitat Three. Since Alan is such a large adult, he is easily seen sitting up high in a hammock or on top of the climber watching out over the other two yards. Biji is also usually seen up high sunning herself on the highest climber. Alan is known from his long calls and swinging from the high ropes in the exhibits.  

Madu, Remy and Bernas all have moved to Habitat One. Bernas likes to show off his brachiating skills on all the ropes! In Habitat Two, we will be rotating two groups of orangutans every other day. This would include Blaze, Pongo and Benny, and the other group will be Miri, Satu and Pelari. Guests will now have an opportunity to watch Pelari grow! Believe me, his hair is out of control too!
Patti Frazier
Keeper III, Primates 

Monday, March 31

Greetings from Brazil!
 
This week I am about two hours outside of Rio de Janeiro at the Rio de Janeiro Primate Center (CPRJ) in Brazil, a captive breeding center for primates. This facility is set in the mountains of the Atlantic Coastal Forest and houses a tremendous diversity of New World primates from the smallest, the pygmy marmosets, to the largest, the muriqui. And of course they have golden lion tamarins, the species I have been working with over the past decade. It’s a beautiful place in the center of one of Brazil’s protected areas.      
 
This week I will be teaching a course on animal care and management with some colleagues from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Staff from Brazilian zoos will be attending the course, and we will spend the week sharing our experiences in taking care of tamarins and marmosets (these are small monkeys native to Central and South America). These courses help to build capacity and create better connections with our international collaborators!    
 
After the course, I will be heading to the field to spend a few days with the Golden Lion Tamarin Association field teams and see some of the wild golden lion tamarins. This is one of the real joys of my job—getting the opportunity to work on a conservation program and see an endangered species living in the wild as a result of our conservation efforts. In the 1970s, only 200 golden lion tamarins were estimated in the wild. Today, as a result of a comprehensive conservation program, including reintroducing captive-born golden lion tamarins back to the wild, there are an estimated 1,700 individuals living in the wild. It’s always a privilege to be able to spend a little time in the forest with the tamarins.  Who knows, maybe I will see some of the descendants from those Atlanta-born tamarins that were reintroduced in 1996!   
 
Ate logo!
 
Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD
Curator of Primates 

Wednesday, March 26
A few weeks ago, Kekla (the first gorilla born at Zoo Atlanta) turned 25 years old. Kekla’s name means “dawn” in Bawanese. Kekla is the son of Ozzie and Paki (deceased). Ozzie is the oldest living male gorilla in the world, and we hope that Kekla will live a long and healthy life like his father. At 7 years of age, Kekla became part of the Zoo’s first bachelor group. He is now a member of a bachelor group with his half-brothers Stadi and Charlie. They can be seen in Gorilla Habitat One in The Ford African Rain Forest. Kekla weighs about 355 pounds and has distinctive light brown eyes. 
Bernie Gregory
Lead Keeper, Primates

Monday, March 24
"How do you tell the monkeys apart?" asked a Zoo guest.

"The same way you tell your daughters apart," I answered.
 
He was visiting the Zoo with his identical triplets.
 
This is a common question from Zoo visitors, but there is no specific answer! Some primates have sexual dimorphism--when males and females have obvious, specific traits. This is usually the easiest way to identify some primates. For example, adult male drills have a pastel pink and blue rump and can be three times as big as the females’! You can easily pick out our male, Bobby, in the Monkeys of Makokou exhibit.
 
Other primates do not have such obvious differences. Our golden lion tamarins, although various in age and sex, look incredibly similar. And there are seven of them!
 
But being a good zookeeper means being able to identify every single animal under our care. They each have a name and record, and it is extremely important to know which animal you are interacting with. We need to distinguish each animal to medicate, vaccinate, and train on a daily basis.  
 
As the Zoo’s newest primate keeper, I've had to come up with some unique ways of telling our animals apart: Kinshasa the Angolan colobus monkey has the bushiest tail; Neal the ring-tailed lemur has the longest canine teeth; Portebella the Geoffrey's tamarin has the widest face ... and so on.
 
I currently have to practice determining who is who, but it gets easier every day. And eventually, just like the parent of triplets, zookeepers are effortlessly able to tell each primate apart by their voice, posture, attitude and more. 
 
So if you see me in an exhibit, go ahead and quiz me! And with some practice, you too can learn the names of all our primates at Zoo Atlanta.
Whitney Taylor 
Keeper I, Primates 

Wednesday, March 19
Midnight munchies? Naptime noshes? At one time or another. I'm sure we've all heard "Don't eat in bed; you'll get crumbs everywhere!" Well, Ozzie the gorilla is no different. Ozzie enjoys snacking on his favorite veggies and greens while relaxing in his bed of hay. Each day while cleaning, we usually find assorted "crumbs" in Ozzie's nest! But at 53 years old, it's unlikely he'll change his habits. That's okay, though, we love Ozzie and all of his silly quirks! 
Kristina Krickbaum
Keeper II, Primates 

Monday, March 17
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Green is an important color to all of the animals in the Primate Department. Green = leaves = yum! From our gorillas to our sloths (the only non-primates in our department), leaves or bark are very desirable. The branches from many trees are used to make natural props that the monkeys and sloths use to travel from spot to spot. But the leaves on many plants are an important part of the animals’ diet. In the wild, primates (and sloths) must learn which plants are safe to eat and which ones are toxic. Here at the Zoo, primate keepers have an approved list of plants to choose from that are safe to give to the animals. This list has been a work in progress for years—both our Veterinary and Horticulture Teams have worked to ensure the plants are safe and that we have available plants to cut from.

Years ago, a wonderful Zoo supporter gave money to help build a primate browse garden, and it has been awesome for keepers to be able to cut plants for the animals whenever they can. The leaves on these plants are great enrichment items – the fiber component is a plus, of course, but the time it takes the animals to process the browse can take a while – and stimulate their minds as well as their insides. Our colobus monkeys are leaf-eating monkeys, so browse is extremely important to their daily diets. As soon as this darn winter quits, the browse plants will finally have a chance to get green. Keepers are poised with their loppers ready to get snacks for the animals! 
Laura Mayo
Assistant Curator of Primates 

Wednesday, March 12
All of our primates participate in a training program so that they learn behaviors to help us take better care of them.  I recently had an exciting success on a behavior with Kokumo, one of our female Angolan colobus monkeys. Kokumo has a breeding recommendation with our male, George, but they haven’t produced any offspring yet. Colobus monkeys also do not exhibit many signs of pregnancy, so it is difficult to know if they are pregnant until a baby arrives. In order to better monitor Kokumo, I started training her for abdominal ultrasounds. That way, we can start obtaining regular ultrasounds and be able to know when she becomes pregnant.

Kokumo is a very shy monkey and is wary of new things, but amazingly she responded very well to this new behavior. First, I trained her to station with her hands holding onto the mesh and then started touching her stomach with a dowel. Of course, she first thought this dowel was a target and would try to grab it with her hand, but she soon learned to keep her hands on the mesh. Once she was comfortable with this, I added some mashed banana to the end of the dowel to mimic ultrasound gel. She was completely fine with this and didn’t seem to mind having the banana touch her stomach. Next, I tried actual ultrasound gel and she reacted more negatively to that – she would push the dowel away and not let it touch her stomach. After a few minutes, she relaxed and allowed the gel to touch her.
 
Then, it became time to practice an actual ultrasound – which included a lot more new things – a vet to hold the probe and read the images and the presence of an actual ultrasound machine. Then, we found out that the probe was too large to fit through our cage mesh, so we needed to make a portal hole in the mesh for the probe to fit through. Kokumo needed time to adjust to the presence of vet staff, but within a few minutes, she was training in their presence. 
 
Kokumo responded very well as each new thing was added. When we first opened the portal, she jumped back surprised, but then after studying it for a few minutes she came back over and stationed in front of it. We learned to keep it open for the duration of the session, because every time we opened it she was surprised.
 
It was incredible to finally put all the steps together and for our vet to obtain actual ultrasound images from Kokumo, especially since she is so shy. We were all so excited at how well she did!!  Being able to obtain regular ultrasounds will help us to monitor Kokumo more closely and hopefully eventually see a fetus.
Lynn Yakubinis
Keeper III, Primates 

Monday, March 10
Spring is right around the corner, and all of our animals have been enjoying the warm weather and sunshine, especially the lemurs! Ring-tailed lemurs are often called sun worshipers because they will sit in a meditative-like pose and face towards the sun. Black-and-white-ruffed lemurs also enjoy lying out in the sun and are able to regulate their body temperatures by the coloring of their fur: They have black fur on their stomachs to help absorb the sunlight and white fur on their backs in order to reflect sunlight and keep cool. The next time you’re at the Zoo, make sure to stop by the lemur exhibit and enjoy the warm weather along with them!
Kelsey Miller
Keeper I, Primates 

Wednesday, March 5
Yesterday was a playful morning for Blaze, Benny and Pongo!  As I was cleaning, I heard Benny making his playful vocalizations so I looked over to see him and Blaze wrestling together. They were pulling each other’s hair and slapping each other. It was funny to watch as Blaze grabbed Benny’s throat sac and started lifting it up and down, all the while Benny just laughed and smiled!  After that brief interaction Blaze wasn’t done playing yet and grabbed Benny by his cheek pads and started moving his head around-almost like she had a steering wheel in her hands!

After their playtime was over, Pongo came over to see his Dad who was lying in a nest. Both were holding each other’s hands and Pongo was pulling on Benny’s hair. Both were making soft vocalizations at each other. Benny then reached up and put his hand over Pongo’s head and started rubbing his head.  
 
It’s so wonderful to see the interactions of these three. It’s one of the best parts of my day!
Patti Frazier
Keeper III, Primates 

Monday, March 3
It has been so much fun to watch all the primate babies as they grow and develop. Our little Schmidt’s guenon has grown so quickly. Most of the time you can see him moving around on his own, with his mother Jill never too far behind. This little monkey has grown so quickly and is full of mischief. He is always up to something—grabbing someone’s tail, exploring around the habitat, jumping on his mom’s back—never a dull moment for him or his exhibit mates! The Primate Team recently selected a name for this little ball of energy. We have named him Kibali. This is the location in Africa where his sire was born. Be sure to stop by and see Kibali next time you are at the Zoo!    
Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD
Curator of Primates 

Wednesday, February 26
A few weeks ago the orangutan keepers wrote about Miri the orangutan’s 5-month-old infant’s latest milestones and his interactions with his older brother Satu. The infant now has a name. The keepers have named him Pelari. Pelari is an Indonesian word that means “runner.” His name was chosen because he was born on the same day as the first “Run for the Redheads” 5K run. This is a 5K run benefiting Ape Conservation Effort’s work for orangutans in Indonesia. Pelari was born during the race this past September!
Bernie Gregory
Lead Keeper, Primates 

Monday, February 24
Our youngest gorilla, Anaka, is slowly learning to walk and to climb. Her mother Sukari has been trying to teach her the basics, but Anaka isn’t as adventurous as most of our other young gorillas have been. The other day Sukari was giving Anaka walking lessons. She would put Anaka down and back up a few steps, and then Anaka would crawl towards her but was whining at the same time. When the group is inside, Anaka will climb a little ways up the mesh and then can be heard whining for her mom to pick her up. It was even observed one day that Anaka wanted Sukari to come get her and when it didn’t happen fast enough, Anaka just let go of the mesh! Fortunately Sukari caught her just in time! Photo by Jodi Carrigan.
Kristina Krickbaum
Keeper II, Primates 

Wednesday, February 19
With all the snow and ice and cold of last week, we were so excited to see the weather warm up just in time for Valentine’s Day! Unfortunately, we were not sure when the Zoo would be opening, so we pushed Valentine’s Day enrichment to Saturday the 15th. Since it was too cold for many of our primates to go outside, we decided to give them their fun enrichment inside. The lemurs enjoyed their papier mache hearts and boxes with cucumber and oatmeal! Even when the weather is not the best, the animals still have a blast! 
Michele Dave
Keeper II, Primates 

Monday, February 17
It’s great seeing the interactions that happen day to day with Blaze and Pongo. This morning, Blaze and Pongo were sitting in a nest together, and Pongo was sitting across from Blaze facing her. Both of them were looking at each other, and then out of nowhere, Pongo playfully slapped Blaze on the head and then for the next several minutes they rolled around in the nest playing with each other. Pongo was laughing and smiling all the while, and Benny sat a few feet away from them and made soft vocalizations toward them. There’s always something interesting happening in the Primate Department!
Patti Frazier
Keeper III, Primates
 

Wednesday, February 12
Miri's infant is continuing to grow and develop. Two of his latest milestones are his interest in tasting solid foods and playing with his older brother, Satu.

The infant does not have any teeth, so he is not ready to consume solid food yet, but he seems to really want to taste Miri's food. He has been sneaking licks of melon and tomatoes, but Miri is quick to take the fruit away. Like any infant, he cries when Miri takes the fruit back, but she quickly soothes him and he is fine.
 
The infant has also been more actively playing with Satu. The infant will gently tap Satu on the head or they will play with the same paper enrichment. Satu is very gentle and will gently hold his brother's hands and play with him. The infant was also seen clinging onto Satu -- Satu sat very still as if he wasn't sure what to do, but he is showing himself to be an excellent big brother.
Lynn Yakubinis
Keeper III, Primates
 
Monday, February 10
Yesterday was Bornean orangutan Miri’s 22nd birthday! She enjoyed some special enrichment in the afternoon along with her older son Satu and her 5-month-old infant. Miri’s favorite part seemed to be finding her fruit hidden in boxes wrapped in paper. Satu, however, had a blast wrapping himself in the discarded paper and then using it to build a comfortable nest. It’s always fun to see how the orangutans utilize and play with their enrichment items. Happy Birthday Miri!
Stacie Beckett
Primate Keeper I 
 
Monday, February 3 
What a winter we have been having! The snow last week made our jobs a bit more difficult, but we took advantage of the opportunity and used the snow for some enrichment for the primates. For those that could not go outside because it was too cold or icy, we tried to bring the outside in to them! Here in Atlanta, it’s not often we get to encounter snow, so we made snowballs and brought in bowls of snow for the primates to see and explore. The orangutans were very interested and put their hands right in it and started to eat it, while the gorillas were a bit more hesitant at first. When the weather finally warmed up a bit, we gave our younger gorilla bachelor group (Mbeli, Kal and Gunther) access to one of the outdoor habitats. They were hesitant to come out at first, but finally ventured a bit in the snow. You can see their foot and handprint in the snow!  (Photo by Jodi Carrigan.)
Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD
Curator of Primates 
 
Monday, January 27
The keepers have talked about the different forms of enrichment and why enrichment is such an important part of the animals’ daily lives. One type of enrichment that we give the gorillas is burlap bags. These are bags that coffee houses receive their coffee beans in. Sometimes we fill the bags with straw and forage mix, and other times we sprinkle different scents (like peppermint, lemon and lavender) on the bags. These scented bags are one of Gunther the gorilla’s favorite enrichment items. Gunther is a 7-year-old male who loves to play and is very silly. Gunther can play with a burlap bag for hours. Sometimes he pulls the bag over his head and covers his entire body. He will then roll or walk around his indoor holding area. Gunther and his burlap bags have given his keepers many hours of smiles.
Bernie Gregory, 
Primate lead keeper

Monday, January 13
It seems like our Schmidt’s guenon baby grows bigger every day! You can now see the distinctive coloring around the baby’s eyes and its white nose. Jill continues to be attentive, but is allowing her baby to explore farther away from her. The baby is very interested in everything and everyone around it, especially our male drill Bobby. Thanks to the nice weather these past few days all the animals have been out on exhibit, and the baby has been playing in the leaves and soaking up the sun! (Photo by Kelsey Miller.)
Kelsey Miller
Keeper I, Primates 

Friday, January 10
Here at Zoo Atlanta we have quite a few orangutans, all with very different personalities. Some are more laid-back and don't get into too much trouble, and some live for trouble. Satu, our 10-year-old Bornean orangutan, belongs in the latter group

With the weather being so cold the past week, most of our orangutan groups have been spending the day inside. We shift them from room to room inside in order to clean. Yesterday I shifted Satu with his Mom, Miri, and her infant into the room adjacent to the one they stay in. While I was cleaning, Satu was able to find a 3-foot piece of bamboo, which he is prohibited from having due to the following reason.  

Satu proceeded to strip the bamboo stick's small branches off so he had one long pole. Next he stuck the bamboo out of his room and began to turn the hallway lights on and off with it.
 
It never gets dull working with primates.
Josh Meyerchick
Keeper II, Primates 

Thursday, January 9
We have seen a lot about all of Zoo Atlanta’s 2013 baby boom – with record numbers in the Primate Department! In orangutans, Pongo kicked off the year with his eventful start/upbringing, and then months later, Miri gave birth to another boy! It has been great to finally see an orangutan baby being raised by his own mother! We have had many babies given a start from humans and then given a great orangutan life being raised by surrogate mom Madu. But not since Satu’s birth 10 years ago have we had a chance to see a real orangutan mother in action!

Miri was very protective of her first baby, Satu. She would go into barrels or under big sheets of paper to make it hard for us to see her newborn. But with this baby (no name, yet), Miri is more than willing to show him off! Even when he was very young, keepers would ask Miri, “Let us see your baby,” and Miri would take the infant’s foot and put it up to the mesh. Miri would even allow the keeper to touch the baby—but only under her terms and her time limit!
 
The infant is thriving—he is a round, plump little guy who is more and more active each day! We may be doing a yard switch with some of our orangutans, so hopefully in the near future, Miri and her two boys will be up front for you to see!
Laura Mayo
Assistant Curator of Primates

Wednesday, January 8
The cold weather is a popular subject lately! Due to Taz’s group having two infant gorillas under one year of age (Andi aged 10 months and Anaka aged almost 5 months), the temperatures need to reach 50 degrees and feel like 50 degrees before they can go outside. The same rule also applies to our “senior citizen” group, made up of Ozzie, Choomba and Shamba (all of whom are well over 50). Because of that, these groups have been indoors for the past two weeks. There is beginning to be some “cabin fever” going on. Even with the extra enrichment being given, there are some individuals who are feeling a bit cranky! We are hoping for some warmer weather soon so that everyone can go outside and get some much needed sunshine and exercise!
Kristina Krickbaum
Keeper II, Primates 

Thursday, January 2
This morning I decided to go ahead and weigh a few of our orangutans. We obtain monthly weights on all our primates to make sure everyone is staying at a healthy weight. This is a good indicator as to whether or not an animal is possibly not feeling well. Our orangutans are trained to stand on a scale so we can get accurate weights on them. Since Miri's infant is still too young to be climbing around on his own, he gets weighed with his mom. I'm happy to say that everyone was at a good weight this morning.
Josh Meyerchick
Keeper II, Primates 

Wednesday, January 1
Happy New Year! Jill the Schmidt’s guenon’s new baby is growing fast! Its gender is currently unknown, but he/she is moving fast and leaving mom for short spurts. The baby is bouncy when moving around, and it is cute to watch him/her climb around inside and outside. Since it has been cold lately, the monkeys are getting some fun enrichment indoors, but they can't wait to get back outside when it warms up!
Michele Dave
Keeper II, Primates 

Tuesday, December 31
To help us monitor their health, the orangutans participate in voluntary cardiac ultrasounds. The orangutans sit and press their chests against the cage mesh as a keeper holds an ultrasound probe to their chest area. Then, a sonographer records the images on an ultrasound machine. We do the ultrasounds every six months to obtain an image of their heart to make sure they are healthy as well as to monitor changes as they grow.

A few days ago, Dumadi and Bernas did an excellent job for their ultrasounds. Dumadi went first and stayed perfectly still for sips of diluted juice. We quickly obtained all the images needed for a complete cardiac ultrasound, and the quality of the images was great! Next, we did Bernas’s ultrasound. He was a bit distracted at first, but quickly settled down and held still for blueberries, grapes and diluted juice.  Again, we obtained all the images needed, and they were great quality. Both boys seem to really enjoy this training since they get individual attention, and they get treats for just sitting still. The boys are among the youngest orangutans trained in the United States for voluntary cardiac ultrasounds, so it will be very interesting to observe what a young, healthy heart looks like as well as document any changes in their hearts as they grow into adult males.
Lynn Yakubinis
Keeper III, Primates

Friday, December 27
This year has been filled with exciting births in the Primate Department. During the past year, we welcomed two gorillas, two orangutans, three golden lion tamarins, and most recently, a little Schmidt’s guenon was born. We have all been enjoying watching these little guys (and gals) grow and develop. 

There are lots of differences in how fast they develop, and there are also differences in personalities. Our first birth this year was on January 10 when Pongo was born. It’s hard to believe he is almost 1 year old; seems like just yesterday we were anticipating his arrival! As 2013 comes to an end, we celebrate an exciting year and look forward to 2014!
Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD
Curator of Primates

Thursday, December 26
Today was a quiet day in the orangutan building.  Due to the colder weather, most of them were not able to go outside until around the afternoon.  Since almost all non human primates are native to regions between the tropics (warm regions), we need to adjust for when it gets colder than what their bodies are able to handle.  When it does get cold, our primates spend the day in their indoor holding areas.  We are able to interact with them more in this setting and offer them fun enrichment opportunities that they wouldn't be able to receive in their outdoor habitats.
Josh Meyerchick
Keeper II, Primate

Friday, December 20
Zoo Atlanta’s youngest gorilla now has a name. Sukari’s baby girl is named Anaka. Anaka is an African name, and it means “without weakness." While Anaka is only 3 months old, she has 2 very unique features. She has the biggest and most beautiful head of hair that I have ever seen on a baby gorilla. She also has a few pink fingers that are missing pigmentation. Some areas of pink on hands and feet are common on baby gorillas. Most turn darker as they age, but some remain pink. 
Bernie Gregory
Lead Keeper, Primates

Wednesday, Decmeber 18
Andi the gorilla is now 9 months old and gets cuter and cuter. She is starting to make happy grumbles for food now. She gets very excited over getting fruit even though much of it gets stolen by her mother Lulu, her half brother Henry or even her grandmother Kuchi. It’s tough being so small! Luckily on days that the gorillas stay indoors, it’s much easier to be sure Andi gets at least a few pieces of yummy fruit. Her favorites are bananas and grapes. Since those foods are soft they are much easier to chew up before someone steals them!
Kristina Krickbaum
Keeper II, Primates
 
Tuesday, December 17
Andi the gorilla is now 9 months old and gets cuter and cuter. She is starting to make happy grumbles for food now. She gets very excited over getting fruit even though much of it gets stolen by her mother Lulu, her half-brother Henry or even her grandmother Kuchi. It’s tough being so small! Luckily on days that the gorillas stay indoors, it’s much easier to be sure Andi gets at least a few pieces of yummy fruit. Her favorites are bananas and grapes. Since those foods are soft, they are much easier to chew up before someone steals them!
Kristina Krickbaum
Keeper II, Primates
 
Friday, December 6
The gorillas sure have loved the unseasonably warm weather this week. Take a break from shopping and come watch the primates enjoying the great outdoors before the weather gets chilly again! 
Kristina Krickbaum
Keeper II, Primates 
 
Thursday, December 5
On Wednesday, Pongo, Benny and Blaze were sitting on the climber together out on the yard.Pongo was sitting in the middle of them. Lately the keepers have observed all of them interacting with each other. Pongo is not as afraid of Benny anymore and comes close to him during the feedings. They have even been observed playing with each other. Blaze during this time is off by herself either foraging or lounging in the hammock. She still also keeps an eye on Pongo, and if she feels like he is too far away, she will go and get him.  
 
Every day it seems like something new is happening in this group. We can’t wait to see what happens next!
Patti Frazier
Keeper III, Primates

Wednesday, December 4
Satu the Bornean orangutan turned 10 this past Saturday, November 30. Satu lives with his mother Miri and his infant brother. They are the only Bornean orangutans at Zoo Atlanta; our other orangutans are Sumatran. The most distinct differences between the two species are that the Bornean orangutans have darker skin and hair, and the Bornean males have larger facial features. Satu’s name means “first,” as he was the first Bornean orangutan born at Zoo Atlanta. He won’t be fully grown and sexually mature until approximately 15 years of age. His cheek pads may not become fully developed until he’s 20 years of age. Satu loves to interact with his keepers, but he’s very much afraid of new things.
Bernie Gregory
Lead Keeper, Primates

Tuesday, December 3 
Holiday parties are just another way to enrich the lives of our animals, and the gorillas are getting into the holiday spirit! Come see the gorillas open their holiday gifts and rifle through their stockings. The seasonal festivities will be held on December 21 at 2:15 p.m. for the gorillas of Habitat One in The Ford African Rain Forest. All of the Zoo animals will celebrate the holidays that day, so be sure to come and watch them enjoy their special enrichment.
Jodi Carrigan
Senior Keeper, Primates 

Friday, November 29
Pongo is a lot more interactive now during his feedings, and he really seems to enjoy them. His feedings now mainly consist of soaked primate biscuits and produce. He is very active and playful and swings and climbs as he chews his food. And if the keeper focuses on Blaze and Benny too much, Pongo makes soft squeaks and “raspberry” noises to get our attention to let us know he is ready for more food – which he consumes eagerly.
Lynn Yakubinis
Keeper III, Primates

Wednesday, November 27
Our primates have been inside for the past few days due to the cold temperatures, so we have been giving them lots of extra enrichment to keep them busy and happy. When I came into work yesterday morning, I watched our male Schmidt’s guenon, Jasiri, playing with a half of a plastic egg – an approved “toy.” He kept hitting the top of it like a drum and then proceeded to place the egg over his head and ran around the area, removing it every once in a while and then replacing it. We like using extra training and enrichment to keep the primates happy and healthy when they’re inside, and it’s always entertaining to see what they do!
Kelsey Miller
Keeper I, Primates 
 
Monday, November 25
Blaze and Pongo are figuring out the circumstances of this week; it’s unseasonably chilly for November in Atlanta, and temperatures have been too cool for orangutans. We wish we could explain to them that it’s cold outside! For a few hours in the morning, Blaze twirls and moves about (with Pongo hanging on!) while keepers clean, but after she gets her morning food and lots of fun indoor enrichment, she settles down and enjoys the day staying warm. Pongo enjoys climbing, playing in lots of paper, and getting a lot of attention from his keeper friends! 
Laura Mayo
Assistant Curator of Primates 
 
Thursday, November 21 
It's hard to believe that this time next week it will be Thanksgiving! Where has the year gone? Zoo Atlanta is closed on Thanksgiving Day (one of only two days all year we’re closed – the other is Christmas Day), but we still come in to take care of the animals. The primates typically stay inside all day, but we provide them with lots of extra enrichment and things to do to keep them happy and occupied. 
 
The Primate Department is thankful for all of our infants born this year who are thriving. What are you most thankful for?
Kristina Krickbaum
Keeper II, Primates 
 
Wednesday, November 20 
It’s been a few months since we last talked about Pongo. He is now over 10 months old and is becoming such a big boy! We continue to give him bottle feedings, but he is now eating all the foods that his mom Blaze eats. He is becoming more independent and adventurous. He loves climbing on the hammock and ropes in his habitat. Sometimes he has a hard time getting down, and all he has to do is squeak and Blaze comes to his rescue! She is such a good mom; she lets him explore on his own, but she is always close by if he needs her.
Bernie Gregory
Lead Keeper, Primates 
 
Tuesday, November 19 
Every month, all of the primates in our department get weighed. Keepers use positive reinforcement to get the animals to step up onto a scale. For some animals, this "scale" behavior is an easy breeze. For instance, when Chantek the orangutan has access to the scale, he immediately sits on it and holds his hands up in the air without further direction from the keepers. For others, this behavior happens in small steps.  
 
For the past couple of months we have been working on having Inge, a female drill, voluntarily sit on the scale. For some reason she was hesitant during each session and wasn’t making much progress. This past session I did with her, she appeared hesitant at first, but out of nowhere, had an “aha” moment and calmly sat down on the scale! This was very exciting since this was the first time we got a voluntary weight on her! It was difficult to actually get her to move off the scale after the weight was obtained; she was so calm sitting there. After a few hours I asked her to do the behavior again, and she was solid. It’s these small yet large moments in a zookeeper’s day that make it the best day ever!
Patti Frazier
Keeper III, Primates 
 
Friday, November 15
Did you know you can help save gorillas by recycling old cell phones and electronics? What’s the connection? 
 
Tantalum is a metal derived from a mineral called coltan which is used in the production of cell phones and other electronics. The largest supply of coltan in the world is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to gorillas. 
 
Help reduce the demand for coltan mining – collect old cell phones and their accessories, and bring them to Zoo Atlanta so they can be recycled and kept out of landfills. This will also help to eliminate the need for new cell phones, which in turn reduces the need for coltan mining. 
 
Bring your old phones to the Zoo, and drop them off in our recycling container in the Willie B. Gorilla Conservation Center. Items you can recycle include cell phones, iPods, digital cameras, smartphones, GPS and Nintendo, to name a few. Help us protect gorillas and gorilla habitats! 
Jodi Carrigan
Senior Keeper, Primates 
 
Thursday, November 14 
This week is Orangutan Caring Week. Conservation organizations and zoos around the world are coming together to promote awareness of issues facing orangutans in the wild. This is a fun opportunity for keepers to join forces with other people around the world that care for orangutans. There are several threats facing orangutans including deforestation and palm oil plantations, which leave very little forest left for the orangutans to inhabit.
 
If you are at the Zoo this weekend, make sure and stop by the orangutan habitats on Saturday, November 16 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for some fun, orangutan-themed activities. You can see our orangutans receive some fun treats as well!
Lynn Yakubinis
Keeper III, Primates 
 
Tuesday, November 12 
You may not have realized, but our Primate Department actually also cares for the two-toed sloths here at Zoo Atlanta, even though sloths aren’t primates. They are housed with the Geoffroy’s tamarins, but with the colder months approaching they are now off exhibit in their indoor area. This is why I wanted to talk about them today, because you can actually still see our sloths even when they are off exhibit by visiting the new Sloth Cam on Animal Planet L!VE. Go to apl.tv/sloths to watch the live streaming cam and see what they’re up to! You may even see one of our primate keepers in the holding feeding the sloths or misting them to maintain a healthy level of humidity. Make sure to check them out, especially in the evening hours when they are most active!
Kelsey Miller
Keeper I, Primates 
 
Thursday, November 7
We are excited to notice that Sukari the gorilla’s 2-month-old infant is already starting to get her baby teeth in! There are several teeth peeking through the gums up front, on both the top and the bottom. Although she will still nurse for at least the next three years (or longer if Sukari permits!), it won’t be long before she starts trying out different foods that her mother is eating. Be sure to stop by and see how our youngest gorilla is growing!
Kristina Krickbaum
Keeper II, Primates 
 
Wednesday, November 6
As Patti mentioned yesterday, Nicky the orangutan is on her way to the Indianapolis Zoo. It’s important that Nicky have a familiar face make the trip with her, so our Assistant Curator of Primates, Laura Mayo, will help her get comfortable in her new home. We’ll miss Nicky, and we wish her the best! 
Bernie Gregory
Lead Keeper, Primates 
 
Tuesday, November 5
For the past few days, the orangutan keepers have been working with a zookeeper, Jon, from the Indianapolis Zoo. He is here because we are transferring Nicky the orangutan to their zoo this week.  When animals get transferred from one zoo to another, it is important that all information about that animal get transferred to the receiving zoo. This helps ensure the smoothest transition possible.
 
Jon has spent his days getting to know Nicky. What she likes, doesn’t like, what her normal day is here at Zoo Atlanta, any specific enrichment she gets and the behaviors she has learned through training. One of the most important behaviors she has recently learned is entering her shipping crate. This behavior will help in the moving process. She seems to really like her crate – she easily enters it and is comfortable spending time in it.  
We will miss Nicky, but we wish her well at her new zoo!
Patti Frazier
Keeper III, Primates 
 
Friday, November 1
Hope everyone had a happy Halloween yesterday. The orangutans sure did! They all got lots of fun enrichment to play with, including giant sheets of paper (one of their favorite things), painted paper towel tubes with grapes inside, and paper maché pumpkins. They seem to have just as much fun tearing apart the paper items as they do eating the treats in them! Nicky in particular enjoyed herself, tearing her paper into long strips and wrapping them around her neck, head and arms. She must have wanted to be a mummy for Halloween.
Stacie Beckett
Keeper I, Primates 
 
Thursday, October 31 
It is amazing how fast time flies! Miri the Bornean orangutan’s infant is growing and developing. Every time I see him, he appears more coordinated and alert. The other day, his big brother Satu was gently playing with him. The infant was moving his hand around and Satu was trying to catch the infant’s hand with his lips or lick the infant’s hand. It was very sweet to watch the brothers playing gently with each other.
Lynn Yakubinis
Keeper III, Primates 
 
Thursday, October 24
Did you know that gorillas and orangutans get flu shots every year just like people do? The great apes are some of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. Since they are so close to us, they can get a lot of the same illnesses that we can, including the flu. Let's face it, though, no one likes to get a shot! So how do you get a gorilla or an orangutan to cooperate?  
 
We do lots of training with our animals at Zoo Atlanta to make daily husbandry and veterinary procedures less stressful. We use practice syringes and blunted needles to get the apes used to the sight and the feeling of the needle touching them and then give them a high-value food reward (grapes, bananas, etc.) when they accept the needle touching them and hold still. We do gorilla training demonstrations for Zoo guests every Saturday and Sunday at 1:45 p.m. in the Willie B. Conservation Gorilla Center (weather permitting). Stop by and learn more about our training program!
Kristina Krickbaum
Keeper II, Primates
 
Wednesday, October 23 
I hope everyone is ready for winter weather! Looks like it will be getting cold this weekend. It’s time to get your winter coats out of storage. I’m not a fan of winter, having lived in Florida until I moved to Atlanta 35 years ago. Hopefully this winter will be mild. The primates at Zoo Atlanta are all native to warm climates. All of our primates have climate-controlled buildings that they come into at night. The keepers have guidelines that determine if the primates will go out into their habitats on cold days. Most of the primates are able to go out if the temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the wind speed is low, and it is sunny. So, we really use the “feels like” temperature. Some of the habitats have special heating devices, such as heaters above the glass at the Willie B. Gorilla Conservation Center and heating elements in the artificial tree in the lemur exhibit in The Living Treehouse. 
Bernie Gregory
Lead Keeper, Primates 
 
Friday, October 18 
I just flew in this morning from Los Angeles, where along with Laura Mayo, I had the opportunity to attend the 2013 Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP) Husbandry Workshop. While there, we had the opportunity to work with and listen to orangutan professionals not only from across the U.S., but also from around the world. During the four-day conference, much was learned on what challenges orangutans face in all sorts of settings. Not only do we identify areas in the orangutan community that need attention, such as the ongoing palm oil crisis for wild orangutans in Indonesia and Malaysia, but we then brainstorm ideas to come up with solutions to solve these issues. These workshops really bring individuals from all different backgrounds of the orangutan community together. Keepers (such as myself), curators, veterinarians, researchers, conservationists, and even rescue workers who fight to reintroduce wild orangutans back into their natural habitat, all come together to provide the best possible situation for orangutans both in wild and captive settings.   
 
Like I said though, I just got back. While I was able absorb a lot of information, creating professional relationships that will help me provide better care for our own orangutans, and I was even given the opportunity to present information to colleagues that may aid them at their own institutions, I am still very glad to be back home here in Atlanta.
Josh Meyerchick
Keeper II, Primates 
 
Thursday, October 17
Greetings from Los Angeles! I am spending this week at the Orangutan Husbandry Workshop hosted by Los Angeles Zoo. It is always fun visiting zoos in different cities. The Los Angeles Zoo is very nice – beautiful grounds, beautiful weather and great staff. Of course, I gravitate to the primate exhibits. There are many different primate species here: mandrills, gibbons, blue-eyed lemurs. They also have gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees in nice habitats. But it is always nice to know that Zoo Atlanta has wonderful, naturalistic habitats that we should be very proud of! Our primates have so much space! Absence does make the heart grow fonder – looking forward to coming home and seeing all of our primates, especially Pongo, soon!
Laura Mayo
Assistant Curator of Primates 

Wednesday, October 16
As Jodi mentioned in an earlier post, Kuchi was the youngest gorilla here when The Ford African Rain Forest opened. Her brother Kekla was the first gorilla ever born at Zoo Atlanta! Kekla was born March 15, 1989, and today he is a handsome 24-year-old silverback in our adult bachelor group. Zoo Atlanta was one of the first zoos in the country to house bachelors together. There are approximately 27 bachelor groups being housed in 20 zoos in North America, and Zoo Atlanta houses two of them!
Kristina Krickbaum
Keeper II, Primates
 

Photo by Jodi Carrigan, Senior Keeper, Primates

Tuesday, October 15
Identification of individual animals in our primate collection is an important part of a keeper’s job. Keepers note daily behavior of individuals which indicate their health and well-being. In addition, if an animal is on medication, we must be sure we’re giving it to the correct individual. 

For some of the primates in our collection this is very easy, as with our Wolf’s guenons in the Monkeys of Makokou exhibit. We only have two Wolf’s guenons, and the male is larger than the female. They also look a lot different from the other monkeys that live with them. 
 
We use size differences and coloration, tail length and other physical differences to identify the primate collection. Sometimes we also use differences in personality. Our lemurs are difficult to tell apart at first look. We have four ringtailed lemurs and five black-and-white-ruffed lemurs who live together in The Living Treehouse. Of course, the two species look very different, but some of the individuals within a species look very much alike. Of the five black-and-white-ruffed lemurs, two are males, and three are females, but we cannot use size to differentiate males and females. We must use slight differences in facial colors, tail colors and personality. Female Malaky may look very similar to the others, but her personality gives her away every time. When we feed her, she raises her left arm over her head! So next time you are at the Zoo, see if you can notice the differences in a group of primates.
Bernie Gregory
Lead Keeper, Primates 

Friday, October 11
Yesterday marked the 29th birthday of our gorilla supermom, Kuchi! Kuchi was the youngest gorilla at Zoo Atlanta when The Ford African Rain Forest opened in 1988. She came to the Zoo on her mother’s back as an infant and is now the fourth oldest gorilla here. She was the first gorilla in captivity to raise twins successfully, and she just became a grandmother for the first time this year with the birth of Lulu’s daughter, Andi. Also this year, she became only the second gorilla ever to participate in voluntary blood draws. Happy birthday, Kuchi!
Jodi Carrigan
Senior Keeper, Primates

Thursday, October 10
Our newest addition to the orangutan collection is almost a month old! It’s hard to believe that so much time has already gone by since Miri’s son was born on September 14. He’s doing great, already growing and riding around on Miri’s stomach. Satu, his older brother, has shown interest in him already, although Miri makes sure he doesn’t bother him. She’s been a great, protective mom so far, just like we thought she’d be.
Stacie Beckett
Keeper I, Primates 

Wednesday, October 9
As Josh mentioned in an earlier update, keepers routinely obtain weights on our animals to make sure they are healthy and maintain a healthy weight. For some species, this process is different than others. For the lemurs, they are trained to enter a crate (which is attached to the outside of their enclosure by a small door), and then the crate is closed and placed on a scale. Therefore, after subtracting the weight of the crate, we can obtain accurate weights on the lemurs. When the lemurs enter the crate completely and allow the door to be closed, they receive a reward – usually a slice of banana or grape. Some of the lemurs really enjoy this process and training in general, especially our youngest black-and-white-ruffed lemur, Luna. 

Last week, I trained all the black-and-white-ruffed lemurs to enter the crate during the afternoon shifting routine. I weighed Malaky and Potter first, and they both did very well. I shifted them into another enclosure so I could obtain a weight on the others. As soon as Luna entered the enclosure where I attached the crate, she ran immediately to the crate (ignoring her afternoon veggies and enrichment). I opened the door to the crate and she ran inside and sat calmly, not even looking for a reward. I got her attention and gave her the reward. After she was weighed, she did not want to leave the crate, but she did when I called her to her station inside her enclosure. While I was weighing Meva and Ian, Luna was very eager to enter the crate again, so I called her into the crate two more times and again she ran into the crate. She obviously enjoys sitting in the crate and really enjoys her training sessions.
Lynn Yakubinis
Keeper III, Primates 

Thursday, October 3
Our youngest gorilla baby is now a month old! We are still waiting on a name for her, but she is thriving with her mom, Sukari, who is being a fantastic mother. Sukari likes to be ahead of the game and started putting her baby on her back when she was 2 hours old. This is very uncommon for gorillas. Andi didn’t start riding on Lulu’s back until she was 4 months old. Stop by and see all of our infant gorillas soon!
Jodi Carrigan
Senior Keeper, Primates 

Tuesday, October 2 
The beautiful fall weather is upon us, but the nights are a bit chilly for some of Pongo’s primate buddies.  Even though the sloths aren’t primates, the Primate Department is responsible for their care. We have to give the sloths access to their heated building if the temperatures are going to fall below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Because the sloths are…well…slow, they may go inside at night, curl up, and get cozy, and not want to venture back outside to enjoy the day! Our new male sloth, Cocoa, loves to be outside, so if you don’t see the girls (Bonnie and Okra), you’ll more than likely see Cocoa. The sloths are always joined by their Geoffroy’s tamarin roommates. 
Laura Mayo
Assistant Curator of Primates

Tuesday, October 1
Lulu the gorilla seems to be following in her mother’s overprotective footsteps with 6-month-old Andi. Lulu keeps a firm grip on one of Andi’s arms or legs nearly all the time outdoors. Andi is beginning to think this is a real drag because 2-year-old Merry Leigh really wants to play with her. You can often see Merry Leigh trying to pick up Andi or wrestle with her, all in Lulu’s lap! Lulu’s own mother, Kuchi, holds on to her babies until they are nearly 3 years old. Let’s hope that Andi doesn’t have to wait that long to play and explore the outdoor habitat! Photo by Gabrielle Bernard.
Kristina Krickbaum
Keeper II, Primates