The best parenting skills are evident not only among humans, but also in the animal kingdom. Most species take care of their own, even sacrificing their own safety until the young ones are old enough to survive. A female giant Pacific octopus holds the top spot when it comes to maternal sacrifice. After finding a safe place, she lays tens of thousands of eggs for seven months or more while protecting them from predators. She provides them with oxygen while blowing currents of water over them. She does not leave the eggs to hunt and feed herself. Shortly after the young octopuses emerge, she dies. Some species do not only extend their parental care to their own by caring for other children of their colony.
Similar adoptive parenting skills are currently happening at the San Francisco Zoo, where a baby gorilla, abandoned by its own mother right after birth on Dec. 8, 2008, is now thriving under the care of a surrogate mother. Hasani is a Western Lowland Gorilla and has been under the care of Bawang, a female gorilla from the same zoo. When Hasani’s mother, Monifa, immediately abandoned him after birth, the keepers at the San Francisco Zoo immediately took care of Hasani, while getting Bawang, who also has reared her then 10-year old child, ready to become a surrogate mother. Bawang’s motherly instincts, coupled with the superb training, made the initial encounter, which happened four and a half months later, a success. It took Hasani six hours to feel comfortable with his new mom. Bawang played with Hasani while tickling him to make him feel more comfortable. Almost 20 months later, they have been inseparable. The mother-son relationship of Bawang and Hasani is growing stronger as the months go by. By the looks of it, the San Francisco Zoo made a good match by choosing Bawang as Hasani’s new mom.
One thing people can learn from this is that even gorillas can be good surrogate parents. Many would-be parents, whether natural or adoptive, can learn a lesson or two about patience and love as they witness Bawang and Hasani together. You would not even notice that Bawang is not the real mother because they look comfortable together. What Bawang and Hasani can teach us is that you can find love–in their case, parental love– even in the most unexpected places and situations.
Visit the San Francisco Zoo and watch Bawang and Hasani as they go about their daily lives. Recently, a boy dropped a Nintendo DS, which Bawang caught. It was interesting to watch how Bawang became curious about the toy while Hasani was trying to grab it from her. That was just another playful moment in the lives of these two lovable gorillas.
Check out Hasani and other animals at the San Francisco Zoo. Visit the website http://www.sfzoo.org/openrosters/view_homepage.asp?orgkey=1859 to find out more information about schedules, fees and events.
San Francisco Zoo
One Zoo Road
San Francisco, CA 94132
Telephone: (415) 753-7080