In the minutes before the gates open and the Franklin Park Zoo floods with school children, Kiki emerges from her cave, clambering three-legged down the rocks of the enclosure, clutching her tiny baby carefully with her other arm. She moves steadily around the rock structures, munching on leafy greens, her baby almost invisible except for a fuzzy head peeping out, quietly clinging to her.
The newest member of the park’s Western Lowland Gorillas turns 22 days old today, and Kiki’s fourth baby. Her baby remains unnamed until the zookeepers can get a closer look to determine gender, since Kiki is very protective and fully capable of doing everything on her own, even giving birth.
“She’s a very good mother,’’ says Jeannine Jackle, an assistant curator at the zoo, as she watches Kiki clamber around the exhibit.
Photos: Franklin Park Zoo welcomes a baby gorilla
Jackle has been fascinated by apes since she was old enough to remember. She remembers watching National Geographic as a kid, which ultimately inspired her career path.
“[At that time], Jane Goodall was going to Africa for the first time, a woman on her own, studying the chimpanzees, and I was … just blown away by that, and felt an instant connection to the animals,’’ Jackle recalls.
Over the years, Jackle has picked up a lot of incredible experience through her work. One of her more unexpected realizations is that gorillas require a lot of patience, she says.
“The gorillas are very quiet, peaceful animals, and they really demand our respect when we’re working with them, and our patience,’’ she says, trailing off and watching a gorilla casually roll over and lounge on his back. “And to see how much like us they are in a lot of ways. You see a lot of the same emotions, where they seem to be very content, and kind of just silly sometimes.’’