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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, July 23
Are those baby monkeys? Although the monkeys are all quite small, our group of golden lion tamarins (GLTs) is comprised of juveniles and adults. Even then, it's difficult to tell the oldest from the youngsters! 

Several babies were born last year, and they could be seen riding on the backs of their mom and dad. But these primates become independent adults very quickly – at between 18 and 30 months of age. And believe it or not, there are much smaller primates out there! The mouse lemur is currently known to be the smallest, with the adults being less than four inches long.
 
Big or small, primates, including the endangered golden lion tamarins, all have important roles in ecology. 
Whitney Taylor
Seasonal Keeper, Primates

Wednesday, July 16
One of my favorite parts of being a primate keeper is creating and providing enrichment for the animals in our care. Enrichment is any object or activity that promotes mental stimulation, physical activity and/or natural behaviors. Today I was able to observe Choomba and Shamba, our two geriatric female gorillas, using one of the enrichment devices in their indoor habitat. One side of the device had a reflective surface, just like a mirror. Throughout the morning, I observed both girls stop for a look at their reflections. Choomba only stayed a moment, looking closely into her own eyes, before moving on to lie down. Shamba seemed much more interested in herself, stopping to look at herself several times. The longest she stayed was right after she received her breakfast. She watched herself eat, and she even opened up her mouth to take a peek at her chewed-up chow!
Sarah Holt
Seasonal Keeper, Primates

Monday, July 14
With the weather being so warm, some of our primates may have access to go inside to cool off. Generally our geriatric and infant primates have stricter temperature parameters since they can overheat or become dehydrated more easily. Those individuals that do stay outside have a variety of cooling mechanisms. All our habitats have shaded areas, fans and misters, and we even give out fruitsicle treats to help the animals cool off. Nothing like summer in Atlanta!
Josh Meyerchick
Keeper II, Primates      

Wednesday, July 9
Pongo has been getting more and more comfortable with his dad Benny. The other day, Benny was hanging upside down on the cage mesh, and Pongo was hanging underneath him grabbing his cheek pad and they were both having a great time playing. Also, Pongo frequently gets in Benny's lap or jumps on his chest, and they wrestle and play and laugh together. It has been great to see them become more and more comfortable with each other and seek each other out for play sessions!
Lynn Yakubinis
Keeper III, Primates
    

Monday, July 7
Happy 8th birthday to Gunther the gorilla! He was born July 6, 2006 and his mother is Sukari. It’s hard to believe he is 8 years old already. Gunther is a grandson of the late Willie B. and is the big brother to Anaka, who is 11 months old. Gunther is in the younger bachelor group with his half-brother Kali and their older companion, Mbeli. 

The three boys spend a good portion of their day wrestling and chasing each other around Habitat Four. Gunther loves to slide or roll down the big hills and is lots of fun to watch! 
Kristina Krickbaum
Keeper II, Primates    

Wednesday, July 1
While we try and keep the outdoor habitats for our primates as natural as possible, a lot of fun items are given to the animals behind the scenes. Keepers have to ensure that everything that goes into an animal’s area is safe and can’t be broken easily (if items do break, they are removed immediately). Many items like paper and sheets can be used as material to make nests, which is something a few of our primate species would do every day in the wild. We also have items made to encourage the animals to use tools to retrieve food – another behavior seen in the wild.  But other items that go into animal areas are just plain fun and are as enriching for the animals as they are for the keepers watching! The ringtailed lemurs in the photo love to sleep together in their hanging dinosaur (I think it is a dinosaur) toy—it was exciting to finally get the photo!
(Photo by Laura Mayo)
Laura Mayo
Assistant Curator of Primates   

Monday, June 23
We recently had two visiting keepers working in our department for a few days. One keeper was from the Calgary Zoo in Canada, and the other was from the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia. Both attended the 2014 International Gorilla Workshop that was hosted by Zoo Atlanta. They were interested in learning different training and husbandry techniques. It was really interesting to work with keepers, not only from different facilities, but also from different countries. It was great to hear about how things are done in other places. We found lots of common ground, but we also got to share, as well as learn, new ideas and approaches for daily animal care. We really enjoyed sharing our great primate collection with other primate professionals!
Kristina Krickbaum
Keeper II, Primates  

Wednesday, June 18
Now that summer is here, be sure to stop by Orangutan Habitat Two. Pongo will be out with mom Blaze and dad Benny. He continues to become more independent every day, and it’s fun to watch him explore the yard and learn new things. Photo by Lynn Yakubinis.
Stacie Beckett
Keeper II, Primates 

Monday, June 9
This month, the Primate Department began with a fresh batch of new interns. I personally enjoy teaching interns because they get so much enjoyment out of the things I get to do every day. Sometimes I forget that not everyone gets to interact with primates!
 
As primate keepers, we have 10 different primate species in our care. Every intern is bound to find a favorite primate that may even guide the rest of their career. 
 
Kibali, the baby Schmidt's guenon, is often a favorite for obvious reasons. Who can resist a heart-shaped nose? But his energy and bravery are what I love most. Especially the time I caught him and Drew, an adult female drill, play-wrestling!
 
I always hope I'm able to teach our interns things they will remember forever, and these monkeys are determined to make some memorable moments as well.
Whitney Taylor
Seasonal Keeper, Primates

Wednesday, June 4
With summer fast approaching, you might like to know how the keepers help keep the primates cool. All of the holding areas at the Zoo are climate-controlled. Indoor temperatures can be set for each species’ specific requirements. While the animals are in their outdoor habitats, the keepers have to be creative to keep the primates comfortable in the heat of the summer. All of our exhibits are shaded by the Zoo’s vast tree canopy. Most of our exhibits have large fans, many with misters. During the hottest days, the keepers give the primates ice treats. These frozen treats are made with a variety of juices and fruit. If the “feels like” temperature is above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the keepers give the primates access to their holding areas. Observation is one of our most important roles as keepers, especially during temperature extremes. 
Bernie Gregory
Lead Keeper of Primates 

Monday, May 26
One of the many joys of working with animals is the bonus of learning of a pregnancy and then witnessing a birth or coming upon a brand-new baby when checking on the animals first thing in the morning! From there, it is a whirlwind of daily checks, from making sure the new infant is okay to making sure the newborn is nursing and growing properly!   

It seems like just yesterday we were admiring the bond between infant orangutan infant Pelari and his awesome mother Miri. Now Pelari is climbing around on his own and taste-testing solid foods. Time does fly by!
(Photo by Laura Mayo)
Laura Mayo
Assistant Curator of Primates          

Wednesday, May 21
When shifting out the lemurs last week, Malaky, one of the black-and-white-ruffed lemurs, would not shift out right away. I went to put out their water bottles as she took her time to leave her holding room. As I was walking around the exhibit, I noticed Potter wandering all over exploring what I had just put out for them. He was dangling upside down and then climbing along the ropes. All of a sudden he went around a tree and I couldn’t see him. But then this was the photo I was able to get as he poked his head around the tree. Looks to me like he was playing hide-and-seek!
Michele Dave
Keeper II, Primates
 

Monday, May 12
Yesterday the Primate Department held our annual Missing Orangutan Mothers (M.O.M.) event as well as celebrated Mother’s Day and Madu the orangutan’s birthday!  For Madu’s 31st birthday, we decorated her yard with a huge “Happy Birthday” banner, paper chains and wrapped boxes stuffed with foods from her diet. Special thanks to our awesome interns for making such great enrichment items for the orangutans. 

Along with these items, Primate Keeper Josh Meyerchick, made one extra-large ice cake. This cake was multi-layered, and each layer had some special treats frozen in it. The cake was very enriching to Madu and two of her surrogate boys, Bernas and Remy. They spent nearly the entire day trying to break it apart one way or another. Madu was seen rubbing it, trying to make the ice melt faster to get to the special treats inside, while Bernas was seen kicking and punching at it. Remy stayed back and enjoyed getting any of the leftovers that spilled his way. 
 
All and all it was one awesome day for keepers, animals and guests!  
Patti Frazier
Keeper III, Primates

Wednesday, May 7
With the recent yard switches, the orangutan groups are now in different indoor enclosures as well, which means they have new neighbors to watch. The other night, I saw that Pongo and Pelari had discovered each other. They were both staring at each other across our small keeper hallway. I wonder what they thought about each other and what life experiences and wisdom they were sharing with each other.
Lynn Yakubinis
Keeper III, Primates      

Monday, May 5
If you visit The Living Treehouse between 3 and 4 p.m. on any given day, you may find yourself wondering about the source of the deafening shrieks. 

This loud chorus is a call of the black-and-white-ruffed lemurs, a critically endangered species. Every day at that time, the keepers have these animals come inside for dinner. But why all the noise? These calls have several purposes: They communicate group movement, warn against predators, and locate group members. 
 
Our black-and-whites tend to do this every day at feeding time. It starts with a single call, and soon erupts with all five members rumbling. This can be a little frustrating for a keeper, because everything stops. Lemurs quit eating, shifting, or paying us any attention, just to join in. And forget trying to say something to another keeper or intern.  
 
So every day, we just wait for the noise to subside and carry about our duties, and laugh when a ring-tailed lemur tries to imitate the black-and-whites!
Whitney Taylor 
Seasonal Keeper, Primates

Wednesday, April 30
Every day we offer the orangutans multiple enrichment opportunities. Today we provided Benny, Blaze and Pongo with a dip well where they had to use tools such as sticks to access food items in cups on the outside of their habitats. Pongo decided that since his arms were skinny enough, he would cheat and just reach his arm out to grab a cup. Orangutans never play by the rules.
Josh Meyerchick
Keeper II, Primates

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