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Sunday, December 15

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Tuesday, March 22

So, I decided two years ago to start growing my hair out so that in 2016 I would donate my hair to Pantene and shave my head for St. Baldrick’s, to raise money to help find a cure for childhood cancer. A friend had done this two other times and talked me into it. Well, this happened March 10, and then I had a few days off of work. I had been told I may need a couple days to get used to the look, but I liked it immediately and started wondering if the animals would take notice.

I got back to work the following Tuesday, and my schedule worked out that I had a 7 a.m. opening shift in gorillas. I walked into the building and turned on all lights. I got my belongings into the office and continued to open and greet the animals as usual. The Daylight Saving Time change had just occurred, so I let the gorillas just wake up in their own time. They are usually awake and up or awake and lying in their nests, so those still lying down I walked past and those that were up, I approached to get a visual on them.

Stadi, one of our males in one of our three bachelor groups, always greets me with a happy grumble, sometimes just when he sees me getting the food out for their breakfast, but mostly just as I am walking down the stairs to check on the rest of the groups. This particular morning, as I passed him to turn on the downstairs lights, I stopped in front of him since he came to the mesh. He looked at me and then continued to stare, but not at my face, at my head. I told him I cut it and asked if he liked it. He didn’t necessarily respond with an angry bark so I took it as positive. He also happy-grumbled at me a few other times during the morning.

After getting chow (hard biscuits that contain all nutrients they need) and medications ready, I came back through and fed all the gorillas. No one else upstairs really took notice or stared at me. Charlie is the only other one who I would say I may have possibly gotten a reaction from. He took a while to come up to the mesh for chow and kind of looked in my direction differently than normal. Of course, I don’t want to read too much into it.

When I got downstairs to feed the family group, Merry Leigh was the only one to look intently in my eyes. I was handing her chow and she was sitting with her mother, Kudzoo. I offered her some chow and she took it and just stared. I was pretty happy with all the gorillas accepting my new ‘do, and we continued our day as normal.

Friday and Saturday I worked in Small African Primates. Friday I opened the monkey building and started doing my checks of the animals. I started to my left, where the drill female group and the Wolf’s guenons are. I couldn’t tell who it was at the moment (the drill girls have distinguishing features but there was not enough time for me to get a good look), but one of the drill girls stopped in the overhead that connects the two holding rooms they share and stared at me. It lasted a good amount of time and she moved on. When I came back to feed them chow, Lucy, our dominant female, came to the mesh and took chow just fine, but she did look at me longer than usual. None of the other monkeys seemed to react or stare.

Later that morning I went over to help a coworker clean at the lemur building. The lemurs were inside, and I am the primary trainer to the ringtailed lemurs. Neal and Julius had not seen me in a couple weeks, as I had been on vacation or not scheduled to work that area. I walked in and their eyes were big. They stared at me and wouldn’t stop looking. I walked down the hall to see the black-and-white-ruffed lemurs, and their eyes followed me. Ian and Malaky both jumped to the mesh right away and greeted me. Luna was on the ground and I did not see her at first. There was nothing noteworthy from Luna. I walked back to the entrance to holding back towards the ringtaileds. They were walking around as normal.

I have not yet been down to the sloth or tamarin buildings, but this morning I will have the chance to see what happens. I mean, my hair has grown out at least an eighth of an inch by now, so maybe it won’t be as shocking.

When I first thought of what I was going to write about for this blog, I just set out to see if I would get any sort of reaction. When it finally came to getting the reactions, it was interesting to see which animals and which individuals would react. I know animals recognize people they know. I know I share a special bond with the ones in my care. And it was very interesting to see who took notice of such a dramatic visual change.
Michele Dave
Keeper II, Primates

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