A Mom for Umande

9 May

17072246A Mom for Umande written by Maria Faulconer and illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung (2014)

This is a lovely true story of a baby gorilla, Umande, who was abandoned at birth. This often happens when animals in captivity reproduce. They just don’t know what to do with an infant. Umande’s mother left him on the floor of the gorilla habitat in the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She had never seen a baby gorilla and didn’t know what to do. Luckily for Umande, the zoo keepers took him to a nursery where they took care of him. They taught him how to behave like a gorilla so that he could be adopted back into gorilla society. At seven months old, the zookeepers try again to reintroduce him to his family, but when that doesn’t work they take him by plane to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio. There Umande meets Lulu, a female gorilla and very experienced mother. After several weeks of being near each other but not living in the same habitat, they are united. Lulu picks him up carefully, plays games with him,and carries him everywhere she goes. At night Lulu takes Umande up to her nest and they fall asleep together. Finally, Umande has a mom.

The illustrations in this book are so gentle and endearing, you would swear you were really seeing the actual gorillas learning to live together.

This story took place many years ago, and sadly Umande’s surrogate mom, Lulu died in 2011. In 2012 Umande was moved to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois. You can learn more about these zoos and the good work they do at their websites.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo   http://www.cmzoo.org

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium       http://www.colszoo.org/default.aspx

Lincoln Park Zoo  http://www.lpzoo.org

This is a current picture of Umande, now a bachelor at the Lincoln Park Zoo.


What can I say? I LOVE THIS BOOK!  It is exactly the type of book I was writing myself this summer based on a similar story of an infant lowland Gorilla who was abandoned at birth and being raised in our zoo, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. I’m happy to report that our baby gorilla has also found a permanent home here with her adoptive mother and extended family this year.

Here’s a picture of Gladys, the baby gorilla adopted by M’Linzi at the Cincinnati Zoo.


This is a video of Gladys celebrating her first birthday with a special cake made just for her!

You can also learn more about Gladys and the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens at their website.

Welcome to the Cincinnati Zoo

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