Ndume’s Birthday ‘Camp’ by Adrienne Mrsny

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When I design the gorillas’ parties I look for things that are universally fun for humans and can be successfully translated to be just as fun for the gorillas. This year’s birthday theme for Ndume (Oct. 10) came from an idea I had for a simple daily enrichment event. Upon thinking about it further I realized the only way to make this enrichment idea work for a birthday party was to make it really, really big. With our favorite outdoorsman Ndume’s birthday coming up, it seemed like a perfect fit: we would give Ndume a day of camping for his birthday. Ndume’s indoor yard is converted to a “campsite” The day of October 10th brought a cold morning and soggy ground from a storm that hit the night before. There was some concern that the gorillas would not want to go out, so we decorated the large yard sparsely, and focused our effort on the enclosed areas, like the small yard and ‘gorilla bungalow’ which were decorated in more detail. We transformed the yards and bungalow into a series of ‘campsites,’ giving Ndume the chance to look into each one. He found tents made of bed sheets, and sleeping bags containing forest-themed stuffed animals for him to play with. One of many “tents” in the outdoor yardIn front of most tents there was a campfire, made from a red or orange origami paper balloon and filled with popcorn, while empty paper towel rolls filled with the morning’s browse (raw veggies and fruit) lay beneath like firewood. Inside the tents there lay backpacks and water bottles, filled with more of his morning browse and special treats. A ‘forest’ was created in the small yard with large branch clippings woven into the mesh, giving the impression of shrubs. A ‘tree’ was also added – a cardboard roll from linoleum, with green painted cardboard slats inserted into the sides and food in paper balls hidden between each layer, to be revealed only when a slat was pulled. Finally, there was the ‘lake’ made of blue paper, with water-themed toy animals and again hidden treats to be found and consumed. Everyone was hoping for sunlight and a warmer day by the time the gorillas would be let into the yard. “Picnic Blanket” The sun was peeking though the clouds, but it was still a little cold for Koko to go out into the yard. Then it was time for Ndume to go out. He sat quietly next to me at the mesh for a moment, then turned his attention to the open chute and the small yard beyond. He gave out a purr and briskly walked right to the ‘campfire,’ devouring the popcorn inside. I left him pulling apart the various campsites and looking at the new enrichment items, while I helped clean and set up his room. The smaller space of Koko and Ndume’s bedrooms allowed us to more thoroughly transform the surroundings, creating more of a feeling of a forest. In Ndume’s room, there was a cardboard ‘tree’ even larger than the one in the yard. This one had a picnic blanket with a stuffed bear and plastic fruits awaiting beneath. Hung from the light was another origami balloon filled with popcorn; this one was bright yellow and painted as a beehive. Scattered amongst the room were boxes of presents painted with forest animals on the sides. In his sleeping quarters, Ndume’s entire bench was covered with freshly picked yellow and red maple leaves (his favorite treat this time of the year) giving the impression of a forest floor. His room truly looked like a campsite in the forest. Once Ndume had finished searching the yard for treats he began pacing around the yard in a very excited manner. He eagerly watched from the mesh closest to us as we carried in the finishing touches for the camping motif. He was clapping and knocking loudly to get our attention to let him into his room. Ndume then sat on a shelf in the southwest corner of the yard that allowed him to watch us in the kitchen. He again began purring as we placed his meal.  “Honeycomb” “Bug” Food