What do you get a gorilla who has everything? This thought was running through caregiver Laura Mullen’s mind as she attempted to pick out a present for Ndume’s 24th birthday. Besides giving him what he always wants, good food and lots of it, Laura wanted to do something special, something that he could enjoy for months to come. After much deliberation, Laura came up with the idea of painting a jungle mural in Ndume’s room, in the building we refer to as X. An excellent idea, the enriching mural would provide Ndume with a new more interesting environment to spend his days. Ndume’s New Language Board The Gorilla Foundation’s library provided many accurate references for the incorporation of native habitat plants, trees and flowers into the planned jungle scene. Laura enlisted the help of our volunteer Facilities Manager (and Creative Director) and all of the caregivers and set out to paint the walls and resurface the floor. A vibrant green color was chosen for the floor as green has been shown to be calming for captive apes, and the goal was to make his environment as calming and relaxing as possible. On Ndume’s birthday he galloped into the outdoor enclosure and was at first hesitant to enter X. Once he was inside he ran his hands along the floor feeling the smooth new surface and performed an up close inspection of the images of trees and plants on the wall, thoroughly examining his new surroundings. Ndume seems to enjoy his new scenery, happily sitting among the plants and trees. He also enjoys his new wall-based ‘language board’ (see partial view at right), which enables him to communicate his wants and needs to both caregivers and Koko without having to learn sign language.
Ndume’s Birthday Mural by Laura & Christa