Lower Wilds of Africa assistant supervisor Tami Jochem guest blogs on ZooHoo!
Our youngest member of the Dallas Zoo chimp troop is 2! The birthday boy, Mshindi, lives with his mom, Ramona; dad and alpha male, KC; 6-year-old brother Kona; and five other members of the troop.
At 2, Mshindi is becoming increasingly independent, but will stick close to mom for several more years. All of the individuals in the troop look out for Mshindi, and he often can be seen playing with or being carried by Kona, his aunt Koko, or the largest male in the group, Mookie.
Mshindi’s favorite activity is to play and wrestle with the big boys. He laughs as they roll and tug him around, roughhousing like human kids do. The larger chimps are careful not to be too rough, adjusting their tremendous strength to his little body. And if anyone gets a bit too rough, one of the females will correct them – by coughing! Mshindi only needs to make one tiny noise if he feels he needs rescuing, and mom or another troop member immediately will grab him up and comfort him by holding, hugging, or patting him on the back.
He enjoys exploring his habitat and is learning how to climb, swing, find food, and socialize. Baby chimps are born able to cling using both hands and feet. As they get older, they switch from riding on mom’s belly to her back. All infants have a white tuft of hair on their rumps, signaling their youngster status. By age 4 or 5, this tuft disappears and they begin to learn and act like adolescents. Chimps’ social structure is quite complex, and it takes many years to learn all its intricacies.
Mshindi now gets his own pieces of fruit at the rooftop tosses, which are daily at 11:30 a.m. Come check out our whole chimp family and wish little Mshindi a “Happy Birthday!”