May. 5th, 2009

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This is the sweetest story!

Apparently, even in the gorilla world, practice makes perfect.

And that's good news for Hasani, the nearly 5-month-old gorilla born in captivity at the San Francisco Zoo who was abandoned by his mother hours after his birth.

Last week, the zookeepers who had tended to him 24/7 with feedings, cleanings, playtime and cuddles, turned over his care to a surrogate gorilla mom, Bawang.

She already raised three offspring of her own and her tried-and-true maternal instinct kicked in flawlessly.

"They're a perfect match," Corinne MacDonald, the zoo's curator of primates, said Monday.

Bawang also may have a special affinity for Hasani's plight. She, too, was hand-raised by zookeepers during her infancy at the Cincinnati Zoo.

The transition took place last Tuesday. "The first day, she was very hands-on," said Kathy Edwards, one of the gorilla keepers who watched the initial meeting through tears of joy. "It was just what we had hoped for."

A video captures the first day, showing Bawang gently - by gorilla standards - playing with her surrogate son, swinging him by his arms up over her head, snuggling with him on her lap, tossing wood wool over him, rubbing his belly and, most importantly, eliciting a smile.

Bawang has learned to carry Hasani to a mesh fence when a gorilla keeper shows up with his bottle and fresh fruit. As a reward, Bawang's sweet tooth is treated to a Gatorade and fruit treats.

"She's not like a helicopter mom who hovers all the time, but even if she's on the other side of the room, she always keeps an eye on him," MacDonald said.

The video is really cute too - baby gorillas are very very cute!


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