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How Yola, Seattle's baby gorilla finally bonded with her mom

Last November, Woodland Park Zoo was excited to announce the birth of gorilla Yola.

The birth was natural, as zookeepers had hoped – they didn’t intervene. But then Nadiri walked away from her baby.

Over the last six months, zookeepers have been working to help establish a relationship between Nadiri and Yola. They kept the pair together and rewarded Nadiri when she showed positive behavior towards baby Yola.

“And it didn't take long; over time she got it,” said Nancy Hawkes, general curator at the zoo. “It took a lot of patience and a lot of trust between our staff and the gorillas.”

Nadiri was born at the zoo in 1996. She was rejected by her own mother, Jumoke, and zookeepers had to take on most of her care. Each day, the zookeepers would introduce Nadiri to the other gorillas. Still, Nadiri would cling – literally - to her human keepers. Zookeepers wanted it to be different for Nadiri and Yola.

“[Nadiri] has a longstanding relationship with her keepers and she trusts them,” Hawkes said. “The keepers were able to keep Yola with Nadiri from day one, and so we were able to make sure Yola knew first of all she's a gorilla, not a human.”

[asset-images[{"caption": "Baby gorilla Yola and mother Nadiri at the Woodland Park Zoo.", "fid": "126946", "style": "offset_left", "uri": "public://201606/gorilla-NadiriYola2.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Courtesy of Woodland Park Zoo/Jeremy Dwyer"}]]Hawkes said Yola has integrated not only with her mother, but the two other members of her family.

“There's really not that much more that we need to do – the bond is there. So we don't want to interfere with it, we just want to be there to support the gorillas,” Hawkes said.

Yola loves to climb and play. Hawkes said Yola reminds her of her daughter when she was young.

“She will focus on something like maybe a little buttercup flower in the exhibit, or maybe it's a bird that's perching up overhead, and you can tell she’s sort of thinking about it and she's wondering, ‘What is that? I haven't experienced that yet.’ And she gets wide-eyed and I swear sometimes she's smiling.”

[asset-images[{"caption": "Woodland Park Zoo's new baby gorilla, Yola.", "fid": "126949", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201606/gorilla-Yola2.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Courtesy of Woodland Park Zoo/Jeremy Dwyer"}]]Produced for the Web by Kara McDermott.

Year started with KUOW: 2006