Posts Tagged With: Kimberly-Clark Corporation

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

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.


Dallas Zoo guest Matt Gomez took this incredible photo of little Mshindi, his brother Kona (right), and mom Ramona. Kona is taking Mshindi’s arm for one of their playtimes. Matt Gomez/Special to the Dallas Zoo

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.”

Kona takes off for a romp around the chimp habitat with his little brother, Mshindi, in tow. Matt Gomez/Special to the Dallas Zoo

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:


Zookeeper Will Bookwalter took this great closeup shot of little Mshindi. Will Bookwalter/Dallas Zoo

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!

Categories: Africa, Chimpanzee, Exhibits and Experiences, Mammals | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Behind The Scenes: Training Quito to sing

The most talkative star of our SOAR, A Festival of Flight show, presented by Kimberly-Clark Corporation, has a great set of pipes, but like all good singers, she benefits from a great conductor.

Quito, an endangered double yellow-headed Amazon parrot, is a special bird who loves to sing, make animal noises, and send out kisses to her audience. And like all stars, she loves the stage. Quito has shown off her pipes in many cool places, including “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

But before her performing career started, Quito lived in a home where her owners didn’t realize the extent of attention she needed to be properly cared for. After being released to the Natural Encounters Inc. team, her trainers were surprised to learn she already knew a lot of words and phrases. In her arsenal was a mixed-up version of the classic “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” in which she didn’t sing the lines in order. Her experienced trainers, though, were able to teach her with specific cues.

“All parrots have the ability to mimic the sounds they hear, but not all have the desire,” said trainer Bobby Brett. “Luckily, Quito is one parrot who has the inclination and the desire to follow through.” And now, just as she would mimic sounds in the wild, Quito uses that natural behavior to charm hundreds of thousands of guests in SOAR.

To start the song off, Bobby cues her by saying “let’s sing,” and making a small swinging finger-hand gesture. Next, to cue the line “E-I-E-I-O,” Brett makes a finger point gesture. And with a roll of the wrist, he cues the line “and on that farm, he has a chicken.” To signal the last line, he quietly says “with a” and Quito sings “with a cluck, cluck here…”

She’s reinforced with her favorite treats, nuts and sunflower seeds, afterward. But putting the song together in the right order didn’t happen overnight. It took two to three years for her to nail it, and she pretty much brings her “A” game every time she hits the stage now. However, Brett says occasionally she likes to throw her own random phrases into the show.

He recalls being on stage a few months ago. “I said, ‘Are you ready to sing?’ and Quito replied, ‘Are you ready?’ And I thought, ‘Where did that come from?’ So I looked at her and I said, ‘Yeah I’m ready, let’s go!’ I reinforced her right after, because it was so cute.”

But it’s important to know that it’s not always cute and funny when you keep a parrot in your home. Many will go through seven to nine homes in their lifetime, because they’re one of the most challenging pets. They can bite very hard, talk and scream extremely loud, and live until they’re 60 years old. That’s quite a commitment.

So when you need an amazing parrot fix, come catch Quito singing at the Wildlife Amphitheater in ZooNorth on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.

And share this special video of Quito in action with your friends:

Categories: Birds, Enrichment, Exhibits and Experiences, SOAR, A Festival of Flight presented by Kimberly-Clark | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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