anthropology · education · learning · Nature

Come See My Gorilla Talk at Woodland Park Zoo on November 18th!

That’s right, I will be presenting a brown bag at Woodland Park Zoo on Thursday, November 18th, regarding my research with visitors to the WPZ’s gorilla exhibit. That’s next week, eep!

I have been volunteering with WPZ since June of 2009. During the summers of 2009 and 2010, I studied how visitors interacted with the exhibit, the gorillas, and what lessons visitors took away with them. I also interviewed visitors about their emotional responses to the gorillas.

I was amazed by how strongly people identified with gorillas, pointing out similarities between their hands, their facial expressions, and what they ate (even though Gorillas are vegetarians). They wanted to know how old the gorillas were, who was the mom and dad, if they got along, did they get bored, and all sorts of comments that indicated a high level of empathy. Interestingly, if people had read the signs they would have answered a lot of their own questions…

I will discuss what visitors responded to, what they learned, and what visitors missed.

 WPZ Flyer Gorilla talk


Playing with the gorillas

Rafe and I once again ventured to the zoo. Our primate highlight this trip: the baby gorilla! The last time we were there the little girl was more interested in snuggling with her mom and sister, but this time she was ready to play!(and eat bark, but to each her own).

It was fascinating to see the baby and her older sister playing together. The sister would pound her chest as the play signal to start chasing her, and the baby would start chasing the sister in circles around their mom. The baby tried it a couple of times, but couldn’t quite get it down, so she looked like she was trying the rub-belly/pat-head trick that kids try. The two would also play wrestle a little, and then start chasing again. Usually the baby chased the sister, I think the sister chased the baby once.

The sister also carried the baby under her belly and on her back, letting the baby jump off.

The mom was pretty patient with the whole thing, only reaching in a couple of times and pulling the baby out of the play fighting to calm her down, or to breastfeed her. The way that kid went for the nipple man, WOW, poor mom.

Since I am studying play right now for my thesis, watching these two spend time playing was just fascinating and made my week!

I felt so honored to see this family hanging out, getting along, and playing.

See more photos on my flickr.


In honor of the Olympics

1900 year old chariot found in Bulgaria.

That’s pretty much it. There’s a lot of primate action going on, including the discovery of something like 125,000 lowland gorillas previously uncounted (Yippee!), but not much else has gotten me inspired to post.