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#GorillaStory: Nutrition | Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Primate keeper Melba Brown discusses nutrition for pregnant western lowland gorilla, Calaya, and the numerous position of milk for her toddler.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s Department of Nutrition Sciences has a devoted workforce who works to satisfy the various dietary wants of 1,800-plus animals day-after-day. A balanced food plan is important to animal health, however it’s particularly crucial throughout a pregnancy and infancy. Keepers and nutritionists have modified pregnant western lowland gorilla Calaya’s food plan to accommodate her rising urge for food.

“When Calaya was experiencing morning sickness, she ignored her morning gorilla chow for a few days,” says animal keeper Melba Brown. “Chow was one of Calaya’s favorite foods before her pregnancy. Our team had to quickly adapted our tactics to make sure that Calaya was receiving adequate nutrition. We soaked the chow in dilute juice to make it more palatable for her. Since her period of morning sickness, Calaya’s dietary preferences have returned to normal.”

In addition to modifications in her favourite meals, keepers observed that Calaya’s urge for food has elevated as her pregnancy progresses.

“She would often consume some cabbage and greens that the other gorillas leave behind. When we noticed that she was consuming all of her food and looking for more, we increased her diet offering slightly,” says Brown.

As highlighted in a earlier #GorillaStory update about maternal training, Brown works on sure behaviors with first-time mother Calaya to extend the probability that she efficiently nurses her toddler. This consists of actions like presenting her chest to a mesh barrier for evaluation by keepers.

“Breast health assessment is a vital part of Calaya’s husbandry training, as newborn gorillas rely exclusively on their mother’s milk for the first six months of life,” says Brown. “After 6 months, they start to taste and try solid foods, but will continue to nurse for three to four years.”

Should Calaya be unwilling or unable to nurse, the primate workforce is ready to supply the toddler supplemental formulation. Previous milk samples from Mandara (and other gorilla mothers) have been analyzed by the Zoo’s Milk Repository. Scientists research the vitamins, hormones and progress elements contained in milk. The info gained allows the Zoo’s nutrition workforce to make sure the chosen method is as nutritionally just like Calaya’s milk as potential. The repository incorporates over 15,000 samples from 150 species.

 “Once we are certain that the infant is nursing well and Calaya has a copious milk supply, then I will begin training her to participate in our milk repository,” Brown stated.

The main goal for keepers is to ensure that Calaya and her toddler are healthy and bonding. Brown notes that they’ll decide Calaya’s participation within the milk repository based mostly on these elements. She is optimistic that this can be a objective they’ll work towards.


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