Babies have much in common with some animal offspring

At the Johannesburg Zoo a baby Mandrill, is a perfect example of the similarities between bringing up a human and animal baby. Born on the 20th April, the Mandrill named Bungha, has warmed the hearts of zoo staff. Bungha is a Cameroonian name which is derived from the Mandrills' native land of West Africa. The name means 'hard as a rock-he will overcome any difficulties he faces'

Bungha is the first child of Thandi, who is amongst many animals in the zoo who have been brought up by zoo staff. Other animals include: BG the Honey Badger, Khaya, Makalali and Hull the Ground Hornbills, Nu the Greater Flamingo and Numzaan the Lion. Primates learn from their mothers and other members of the group, however Thandi never received this opportunity as she was hand reared. She lacks the necessary skills to look after Bungha, which was evident by the way she battled to breastfeed and carry him. In order to keep Bungha safe, a decision was made to remove him from the enclosure and have the zoo staff look after him.

What an exciting month it has been watching Bungha grow. 6 weeks ago he sat quietly on his keepers lap sucking his thumb and now he is playful and curious about his surroundings. His baby cot is filled with toys, baby rattles and a slice of fruit which he is not quite sure how to swallow. From birth, Mandrills' cling to their mothers for security and comfort, Bungha's pink blanket never far from him and is used as a substitute for the security and warmth his mother would normally provide.
Taking care of Bungha is a full time responsibility which is shared amongst zoo staff. They alternate between feeding, nappy changes and taking him home for the night. Similar to a human baby, at just over a month and few weeks old, he is still fed milk formula every 3 hours and is slowly being introduced to other foods such as fruit. He wakes up every night and requires comfort and assurance that he is safe. Mandrills' are social animals and just like humans they gain confidence to learn and explore while staying close to their mothers and other individuals in the group. Bungha is no different and requires constant love, attention and care to become self confident, physically and mentally healthy.

Although Bungha spends most of his time with his surrogate parents, he will eventually join his family. Thus far, he has been introduced to his mother. Although the visits are supervised by a zoo staff member, once Bungha is able to fend for himself he will be moved permanently into the enclosure to be with his family. These interactions between mother and son will 9benefit both of them. Bungha will have to be socially integrated and accepted to keep the balance and harmony within the group, while Thandi will be able to learn the necessary skills to look after her offspring.

Prepared Razina Pandor and issued by Letta Madlala Brand and Communications Manager on behalf of the Johannesburg Zoo.

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