Imani’s Newborn~

Imani is a 18 year old lowland gorilla at the San Diego Safari (Wild Animal) Park and this is her newborn baby delivered on March 12, 2014. (Please click to enlarge).

This is the 17th gorilla born at the Park. The baby was delivered by cesarean section and born with a collapsed lung and severe pneumonia. The neonate had surgery at birth, was treated for the pneumonia, and reunited with her mother at age 12 days.
Mama Imani has basically not put the baby down since the reunification.
Gorillas are such good mamas and could teach humans a thing or three about maternal child bonding.
The baby’s head lolls when it falls asleep. Mama is always holding baby’s hand as you can see in these pics.
Mama Imani was also a surrogate mother to Frank, now a five year old gorilla. She is still quite attached to Frank. All the park gorillas live in a troop with a silverback male leader you will see below.
Gorillas are an endangered species with approximately 100,000 left in the wild. There are however only 300 Cross River Gorillas and 720 Mountain Gorillas still alive in the wild. Mountain gorillas cannot survive in captivity, so if something dramatic isn’t done soon, they will be gone without a trace. Gorillas are poached for meat and trophies, and their habitat is being decimated. Humans of course are primates like gorillas, and we share over 99% of our DNA with our gorilla cousins.
One of the troop juveniles.
The Park is a special place. It is a non-profit organization that focuses on protecting and helping endangered species reproduce. Animals that are extinct in the wild are reproducing and being protected here until they can safely be reintroduced to the wild. It is not a zoo, with animals in cages, but a vast park where animals roam in herds and live in family groups. If you have a chance, and care about endangered animals, I would recommend a visit.
The papa, troop silverback male.
My son Matt volunteered for a year at the Institute for Conservation Research here, before going to graduate school in wildlife biology. This non-profit organization is a world leader in research for the protection of endangered species. Check it out:
Cheers to you from these magnificent gorillas, our gentle, kinder cousins!
For more info check out:

202 thoughts on “Imani’s Newborn~

  1. Oh wow! What gorgeous creatures. There’s something so human about them: the way they look and how they care for their young. A nice read, thank you.

  2. queste immagini sono meravigliose e toccanti, la purezza del sentimento vi traspare e cosΓ¬ l’immensa tenerezza che fa di questa madre un essere molto speciale
    grazie mille!!!
    These pictures are amazing and touching, the purity of sentiment there shines through, and so the immense tenderness that makes this a very special mother

  3. Wow. This is the most touching photograph. I feel so close and inside their intimate moment.

    It’s just a breathtaking photograph. One day you should publish your work..

  4. Beautiful shots Cindy and such lovely creatures. The first shot of the infant,before growing hair, looks so human. I somtimes wonder if they evolved from us as a more sane version. Cheers πŸ˜€

    1. Oh yes! I wonder this too my friend. I wonder about the cause of so much excess human cruelty and what, if anything, we can do at this point to stop it. Gorillas can be taught sign language. Humans need to be taught to listen to them. They probably will have better answers than we do!

      1. Quite so. The hope that I have always had is that it is only an unavoidable phase in our evoluion. At the same time our true nature keeps on being born and slowly prevails. It can be seen throughout history. It is slow compared with the span our lives, but indomitable.

        ~ Slouching towards Bethlehem – to be born. (Joan Didion and Joni Mitchell).

        Best Wishes, Graham. :bear: .

      2. Joan Didion is writer whose work I greatly admire. Note my daughter’s comment about me when looking for a book for me for Christmas, “She likes to read really depressing writers like Joan Didion…..” Laughing…..
        Yes I guess that’s it. We’ll eventually burn out ourselves out as a species and much of the life on our planet as well, and be replaced by a more evolved iteration.
        We can’t pretend we didn’t know and didn’t have ample warning…..
        I enjoy talking with you Graham~

    1. This is what I don’t get either. I do understand human cruelty, yes. I have seen enough of it. I understand human stupidity also. I have seen that as well. What I don’t understand is such long term, unending destructiveness, so that entire species are extinct and others on the brink and possibly the bulk of human beings
      don’t even really care. This I do not understand. It is both stupid and destructive and we humans in the final analysis will be the ultimate losers.

  5. Spectacular photos. So sweet how Imani is always holding her baby’s tiny hand. My favourite photo is the last of the silverback though, he has such a powerful expression on his face.

    1. Isn’t he just everything! He says everything for his species. He sits and stands so powerfully, yet so gently watching over his troop, and looking so profoundly disgusted with what has happened to his species. He to me is so eloquent.

  6. Oh, Cindy, you have captured these magnificent creatures in their glory. And thank goodness we have groups like this who are doing all in their power to save these endangered lives. And bless you for bringing this into the public eye!

  7. Such beautiful pictures of special moments! I wish I lived a little closer so I could go and visit, hopefully without being an intrusion! How is it set up?

    1. I should include photos of the park itself so people could get an idea of the set up and scale. There is a vast plains area where African herding animals roam including the extinct in the wild Mongolian Ass and one of 7 remaining subspecies of white rhinos in the world! Only four of these 7 can reproduce. There is much more. There are outdoor, grass and tree filled areas for animals like the gorillas, that are separate. Next time I go there I will take photos of the set up so people can see. Visitors can view the animals like in a zoo, except sometimes you can’t find them like in the wild, because the enclosures are spacious. There is a tram that will take you around the plains. It is interesting because when we were in Africa the density of animals in the wild was much greater than the density you see in the park.

      1. I feel kinda happy to hear that they are not exposed forcefully for the entertainment of onlookers…

        I’d like to see photographs too.

        I have not yet been to Africa, though do have intentions to get there some day!


    1. Yes. Exactly. Thank you.
      I had a white pomeranian for many years named Tuffy (short for T. Biffstersdadt). Tuffy had a subscrition to the New Yorker under his name, but I usually read it. One of our friends saw it and said, “Who is T. Biffstersdadt?”
      I said, “Tuffy. He likes the cartoons….”
      God I loved that dog.

  8. Oh, these beautiful photos made my day, Cindy! I saw on the news where the mama gorilla was reunited with her baby, and I know the separation was necessary due to the baby’s health problems at birth, but I could only imagine how devastating those 12 days were to the mother. Thank goodness for places like the San Diego Wild Animal Park. It breaks my heart that we’re destroying the habitats of these magnificent creatures.

    1. Not surprised that we are on the same page my friend, but gratified nonetheless. And yes, heartbreaking to think how helpless and afraid Imani must have been. What have the humans done with my baby? Can’t stand it. So happy it turned out like this, as clearly, Imani is too!

  9. Amazing, touching captures, Cindy! How wonderful these animals are having a home there… Thank you so much for introducing the conservation research center to us, I will read these sites carefully.

  10. Once again here’s a post that nearly brings me to tears. The mama gorilla is so devoted and the baby obviously relaxed and secure. Killing these gentle creatures for human gain is just a horrible shameful thing. Congratulations to your son for the work he is doing and to you for your devotion to the same causes.

    1. I’m with you on this one, but it gets my blood boiling too, along with killing dolphin and whales, imprisoning orcas, cutting off rhino horns, fighting dogs, and all the other senseless mayhem humans create, not even mentioning what is done to vulnerable humans and children. People like us need to stand up to the bullies. There are so many more good people in the world than bad, but the bad do the damage.
      You rock my friend and I know and appreciate how much you care.

  11. These are Stunning photos, Cindy!
    I can’t help wondering what the gorillas were thinking. Their faces have this “serious” look. They are like philosophers who live in the wild. πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you Hari. I am just like you. What do they think of us? There do have serious, melancholy faces. I think they have watched us and are thinking, “what is wrong with these people???

  12. Motherhood is a thing of wonder, no matter the species. This is really touching, how she was so overwhelmingly welcoming and protective of her baby after being reunited. Thanks for sharing, and cheers to all the great mothers out there!

  13. These are such lovely photographs, Cindy! Spectacular portraits but in a quiet way because they contain so much gentle beauty. They’re all so beautiful but I especially love the seventh one where Imani is gazing into the distance and of course the very first photo, which is just so precious.

      1. If we saw more of pics like this in this world, maybe some of us might value them more. I’m getting excited now about your hummingbird pics to come! The hummers will come our way first/mid May

      2. I had to get new feeders, a two story job I call the condo that holds a quart and has 20 feeder outlets and another 40 ounce one with 12 outlets. I am looking at the hummers now…..lots of happy hummingbirds!

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    1. I am so glad you got to experience this and doubly glad you were as moved as I was!! Just incredible and marvelous your kids saw it too. They will remember it for the rest of their lives! Your post is awesome, as is your blog~

    1. Mil grazi my friend. I was wondering about coming up your way in May if you have time. I will email you when I get back from Canada to see if there is a time that is good for you~

    1. Yes. Sadly, I see this in the eyes of all captive primates, including the Barbary Apes in Gibraltar, but not in the eyes of the ones I got quite close to in Africa, ie., the wild ones. It’s impossible for me not to read body language. It has been trained into me~

  15. Cindy these images took my breath away, they are so intimate and the details are so right there they can almost be touched. i came away after several viewings sensing a collective consciousness at work here, not sure i can explain it better than that. a truly wonderful collection!

    1. Yes indeed. Jung hears you and so do I! There is a commonality of consciousness that we humans ignore at our peril. Jung knew because he had a near death experience as a young man. I am happy you can tap into this~

  16. each one of this awesome family is a poster boy/girl for their age: the teen-ager looks goofy, Papa–stern. Mama preoccupied and loving, and baby all…the way babies are. Super good stuff, Cindy. πŸ™‚

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  18. Not unlike me when I was one month old.
    The public have lobbied for kinder way to keep wild animals .
    Yet animals are kept in appalling conditions for comitial purposes so they can be slaughtered and sold to be eaten.
    I should resist putting a negative thoughts on such a beautiful post.
    Sorry Cindy, it just popped into my monkey mind.

    1. Actually this is a rather melancholy post for me. I am just heartbroken about how we treat animals and how we are destroying our exquisite natural world. So please, no apologies. I agree with you entirely.

  19. The last one looks kinda like my uncle Al, Cindy. The pics are wonderful and you give an insightful look to the plight of these threatened animals, Cuz. You da best !!!

    1. Laughing……yeah I know!!! Maybe this is a Barton thing! Still laughing. On a more serious note, thank you cousin. Us Barton’s rock, Uncle Al’s aside…….Laughing more~

  20. Oh, nooooooooo! There is no “Wild Animal Park” anymore. It’s now Safari Park, technically “San Diego Zoo Safari Park,” which can be confusing on the freeways because they put “San Diego Zoo” on one line and “Safari Park” on another line, leading some people to exit thinking they are going to the San Diego Zoo.

    1. I know! I was born here. I just prefer the original name wild animal park. The name safari park reminds of big game hunting safaris in Africa and is so not what the Zoo or WAP are all about which is conservation. I think it’s a PR tool.. A rose by any other name perchance Russel?????

      1. The problem, though, is that WAP is a very poor acronym, being an ethnic slur. In my 21 years here, you’re the first one I’ve ever heard (or read) call it WAP. I have eight friends who work there, though, and none of them call it WAP since, as I said, you are the first I’ve ever heard call it that. Nonetheless, your pictures are beautiful!

      2. The slur you are referring to is not WAP and is spelled and pronounced quite differently and is a terrible acronym I won’t even spell out. Besides I wasn’t referring to the acronym but the original name Wild Animal Park. You are correct Russel. I will correct the name, tags and categories. I am a supporter of the conservation efforts of the Zoo and Safari Park by whatever name they are called. Peace Russel and cheers to you.

  21. jdk22

    This is an excellent post, both the pictures and the narrative. Seeing this mother and newborn obviously meant a lot to you. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post with us.

  22. I like how the mother holds the baby’s hands and grasps its fingers. It is so much like a human, in some respects. I adore animals and love the way you feature them in such beautiful portraits like these!

    1. Awwww. I was so struck by this mama’s obvious adoration of her infant. Love is clearly not a uniquely human emotion. Thank you so much my friend for seeing this~

  23. These are incredible photos and information about gorillas! Thank you for sharing, Cindy. They are as close to us as any animal. Maybe we can learn something from them.

    1. You have such impressive relatives! I can see why you are so proud of them. Most of us have at least a few relatives we don’t brag about!!! Laughing…….

  24. I am amazed the mother gorilla accepted her baby after 12 days! Usually bonding his to come within the first 36 hours. How were you able to get these photos? Do you live in San Diego, California or in Europe? Please elaborate! I am anxious to know.

    1. She is just a very nuturing gorilla who has been a surrrogate mother to another young gorilla who was orphaned. I love in a rural area of north eastern San Diego, about a half hour drive from the wild animal park.

      1. Back during WW2, my family lived in San Diego because my father was Navy. While he was overseas, mother took us to San Diego Zoo several times. I have good memories of those trips.

        I have a funny memory about San Diego itself. My parents allowed me to be used as a “guinea pig” for one of the classes at San Diego College. I could write with both hands and also write both directions as easily. The professor there experimented with my skill as a mirror writer just to be sure it was real. It was great for me, as a four year-old, to be on display like that.

      2. I was born here and I too have lots of memories of going to the zoo. My son mirror wrote. Interesting experience you had, must have been SDSU as UCSD wasn’t built until later. San Diego was quite a different place back than, much better actually than now! Cheers to you & thanks~

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