When most moms come back to their place of employment from maternity leave, they get a small respite from the demands of -parenting.
Not so for Kathy Edwards. She went from caring full-time for son Lukas to caring part time for Lukas and part time for a baby gorilla.
Last year, Edwards, the senior gorilla keeper at the San Francisco Zoo, got pregnant about a month before western lowland gorilla Monifa did. A gorilla’s gestation period is about 8½ months, so Edwards and Monifa, both first-time mothers, went through most of pregnancy together. Edwards had baby Lukas on Oct. 19, and about six weeks later, Monifa had baby Hasani.
As most zoo news followers know, Monifa did not take to motherhood. After a difficult birth, Monifa cleaned up Hasani and then washed her hands of caring for him. She has remained interested in him, and will watch him and sit next to him, but she would not nurse or care for him. Zookeepers took up the task of caring for the baby gorilla for about five months, until they introduced him to surrogate mom Bawang, who immediately took over mothering.
On Tuesday, Edwards will join others at the zoo to celebrate Hasani’s first birthday. She said it has been fascinating to watch Hasani’s development alongside her own baby.
“It’s been amazing. There are a lot of similarities, and then there’s some differences,” she said. “They’ve been growing in weight at the same rate, but Hasani had his first tooth at 3 months. Lukas didn’t get a tooth until
5 months. And Hasani was starting to walk at 3 months old, and my son started walking at 11 months.”
Their emotional and mental developments have more or less paced each other as well. As infants, Hasani and Lukas wanted to be held most of the time.
“Hasani is now starting to act like a big boy and run around and move away from mom, but then he’ll get scared and run back to mom,” Edwards said. “I see my son do that, too — he’ll run toward the playground and then turn around, like, ‘Oh, no! Where’s mom?’”
Asked whether the zoo has plans to bring another baby gorilla into the world any time soon, she said that would be up to the species survival plan, which plays matchmaker to animals in captivity based on their DNA to ensure genetic
“Not at this time, no,” she said.
Asked whether she has any plans to bring any more human babies into her world, Edwards just laughed.
“Nope, not at this time,” she said.
All about Hasani
The newest gorilla at the San Francisco Zoo is set to celebrate his first birthday Tuesday.
- Name: Hasani (means “Handsome” in Swahili)
- Born: Dec. 8, 2008
- Parents: Father is Oscar Jonesy, the adult silverback of the gorilla house. Mother is Monifa, who is a first-time mother.
- Surrogate mom: Buwang showed a lot of interest in Hasani from the start, and when he was about 5 months old, she became his surrogate mom.
- Species: Western lowland gorilla, a critically endangered species.
- Weight when born: 6 pounds
- Current weight: 20 pounds
- Weight when full-grown: 350 to 500 pounds
- Birthday celebration: Zoo members are invited to celebrate Hasani’s birthday at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Hasani will get a big “ice cake” — a block of carved ice.
Source: San Francisco Zoo