Big brother Kona, chimp troop make warm home for baby Mshindi
No mom or dad likes to see their baby grow up. Thankfully for chimpanzees, they get to be babies for quite a while.
Born Jan. 26, Mshindi is the second baby for mom Ramona. He joins 5-year-old big brother Kona, along with seven other troop members in the Kimberly-Clark Chimpanzee Forest.
For two to three years, Mshindi will be completely dependent on Ramona for care. Don’t expect to see him running around the habitat on his own. For now, he remains safely on mom’s belly– or in the arms of his big bro. Kona’s recently taken to scooping up Mshindi, playing with him and even carrying him around the habitat and high up into the trees.
“Ramona controls a lot of the milestones. But with her second baby, she’s a little more relaxed this time around,” said Sarah Villarreal, mammal supervisor. “She’s allowed the baby to step off her belly and into the arms of Kona. Kona loves to climb to the top of the trees with Mshindi and just hang out.”
For about five years, a white tuft of hair will remain on Mshindi’s bottom, distinguishing him as a young chimp. The tuft tells group members he’s a baby and they need to be careful. It also means for the next few years he can get away with just about anything.
“As the baby develops, there will be times when he’ll just go and take food from the alpha male and he will let him,” Villarreal said. “They’ll be very tolerant of the infant because they know he’s learning, and the whole troop works to raise the baby.”
With Kona’s tuft now beginning to thin out, he’ll have to start learning how to be a respectful member of the troop — and yes, no more stealing food from the adults. Going from the troop baby to big brother hasn’t been the easiest transition for Kona, but he’s been a great big brother.
“Kona was jealous at first. He would throw tantrums sometimes,” Villarreal said. “But now he’s doing well. It’s amazing to watch him hold his baby brother. But if Ramona ever gets nervous, she will take the baby back.”
Ramona used to be a lower-ranking female, but now holds a higher ranking status in the troop after birthing another baby. Her new status can cause some jealousy among the other females, but Villarreal says that’s how Mshindi learns the troop dynamic. “Around the baby, troop members will still fight,” she explains. “That’s how the baby learns what a troop is and what it’s about.”
Chimpanzees develop very slowly, so it could be years until Mshindi stops nursing. His big brother nursed until he was 4. You can track Mshindi’s development with the timeline below, which our keepers have used for decades to follow our baby chimps’ milestones:
12-16 weeks: Reaches towards an object and grasps, shows coordination
12-16 weeks: Shows play face and laughs during tickling
16-20 weeks: Chews and swallows first piece of solid food
16-24 weeks: Starts to take first quadrupedal steps; climbs small branches
20-24 weeks: Takes first step
20-24 weeks: Mother-infant contact broken
20-24 weeks: Climbs up sapling or branch
26-52 weeks: Small amount of solid foods eaten
28-32 weeks: Attempts to groom another, inefficiently
64-68 weeks: Runs at and hits another infant aggressively
64-68 weeks: Reassures another in correct context
72-76 weeks: Grooms with adult technique
Check out this uber cute video of our little ones!