The Story of
Annie was born on June 2, 2013 at Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Chikusa-ku, Nagoya, Japan. Annie weighed 4 lb 3 oz at birth (1955 g). Her mother is Ai and her father is Shabani also known as ¨the most handsome gorilla. Ai was only 10 years old at the time and an inexperienced mother. It is unclear if her age was the cause but she was unable to properly care for Annie when she was born. Almost immediately, the zoo caretakers realized that Annie’s body was cold and weak and they decided to take her from Ai and raise her themselves. Without this intervention Annie would have surely died. Within a couple of weeks her weight had increased to well over 4 lb 3oz (2000 g).
From the very beginning the zoo was a intent on eventually reuniting Annie with the rest of the gorilla troop. However, this had not been done before in Japan. Up until then there had not been a successful reintroduction of an infant into a troop after being raised by humans. The zoo brought in experts and consulted with western zoos who had done so previously to formulate a plan for Annie’s return to the family by the time she was 1.5 years old.
One of the first things they did was to hold Annie up to bars separating the other gorillas from Annie so they would have face-to-face interactions daily. While Ai spent some time looking at Annie, it was Shabani who would spend hours and days looking through the bars at his little girl. He recognized her as his child and wanted to spend as much time as possible with her.
By July 28 a name for the baby was decided. The name chosen was Ani (soon reinterpreted as Annie) from a combination of the “A” in Ai’s name and “ni” from Shabani. Their wish was that she would grow strong like Shabani and lovely like Ai. By this time Annie’s weight had increased to 6 lb 4oz (2900 g).
Annie’s teeth started to come in around 68 days from birth. The lower incisors were the first to come out. The upper incisors came in around day 83. (annie teeth img) By six month she had 8 teeth and was able to eat the same foods the adults were being fed. Baby gorillas begin weaning when they are around three years old. Once Annie rejoins the rest of the family the zoo caretakers will need to continue to provide her with milk bottles. The milk she receives is the same milk given to human babies because gorillas are so close to humans in DNA.
By 6 months old Kiyomasa, who is 7 months older than Annie, is spending a lot of time through the cage bars spending time with Annie. He will reach through the bars and touch Annie. Annie sometimes returns the touches.
By 11 months, Annie’s weight has increased to 16 lb (7200 g) which is 3 times what she weighed at birth. Around this time the zoo moved Annie’s bed, which consists of a pillow and towels, from the nursery to a room adjacent to the main gorilla enclosure. From this new room the gorillas can see, smell and hear each other. It is also possible for them to touch each other through the bars. The bars separating the rooms had a little door that only Kiyomasa could go through. He would cross over often to play with Annie.
Shabani would spend hours every day peeking through the small door between the main gorilla room and Annie’s room. During this time, they started letting Annie spend time in the main rooms of the gorilla enclosure when they were not there so she can get accustomed to the area, smells and sounds.
At a year old Annie’s weight had increased to 17.5 lb (8000 g) and was very healthy. The zoo is now going to attempt to put Annie in the same room as Ai for the first time since birth. The process started with moving Ai away from the rest for a couple of weeks so she can adjust to living alone before they introduce Annie. They did not want to introduce Annie right as soon as Ai was separated from the rest of the gorillas because that alone would cause her much stress. Between Ai’s room and Annie’s room there is a 16 in door that only Annie fits through. They opened this door to allow Annie to join Ai at her own speed. This also gave her an outlet in case things did not go well. Although from the other’s zoo experiences that had reunited human raised gorillas with the troops they were fairly confident that Ai would not hurt Annie.
When Annie first crossed over the little doorway Ai’s body went stiff but she did not hurt Annie. That first day they spent about 90 minutes together. They observed each other without much more interaction than that. The very next day, Ai reached out and lightly touched Annie. From then on the time spent together was increased every day.
It appears to the zoo staff that there is no recognition of parenthood between Ai and Annie. Ai does not seem to recognize Annie as her child and Annie appears to see Ai as a friend. Annie goes around chasing Ai in order to play. She will watch Ai’s mouth closely when Ai eats as if trying to learn something from her. However, Ai eats so fast that often Annie can’t get enough food before Ai eats it all. So they have to separate Annie from Ai twice a day so she can get something to eat.
On October 20, 2014 Shabani joined Annie and Ai in a room by themselves. When Annie sees Shabani coming she runs like a little bat out of hell in the other direction. This is the first time she is in the same room with an adult male gorilla and he must be quite intimidating to such a little one. Shabani, however, did not try to hurt Annie and continued to approach her carefully. Slowly Annie got used to Shabani and could be seen interacting with him comfortably.
On November 10, 2014 Nene and Kiyomasa finally joined the other 3 and the whole troop was one once again. Kiyomasa was very excited right away to play with Annie and was a little overbearing. Causing Annie to cry out to get him to back off. Nene felt the need to protect her son and not knowing Annie she attacked even though Annie was just a baby. One particular incident started when Kiyomasa reached out and tried to take Annie’s little blanket which she carried since birth. Annie screamed and tried to retrieve it. It was at this time that Nene ran up to the 2 children and attacked Annie. However, Shabani who was in another room came flying in to stop Nene from harming Annie. As expected Nene got hurt. This was the first of many such incidents where Shabani would faithfully come running to the rescue of Annie. It didn’t matter who was the threat to Annie because he was also seen getting bodily in between Annie and Kiyomasa. Presumably because Kiyomasa was being too rough with the little girl.
By May of the following year, Annie was still not fully integrated and comfortable with the whole troop. She voluntarily spent a lot of time in her room with the small door. The adults cannot go into this room but Kiyomasa could and would. Kiyomasa and Annie started spending a lot of time bonding and playing. Still Shabani spent a lot of time crouched down, looking at Annie through the little door. It is obvious by now that Shabani loves little Annie very much.
The fun interactions between Annie and Kiyomasa combined with the security that Shabani provided her as her protector was too much temptation for Annie and she started spending more and more time with the troop. Nene also became a bit more hesitant to attack Annie because it was clear to all that Shabani would not tolerate it. By the time Annie was 2 years old she was fully integrated with the rest of the troop.