Researchers are calling a 26-year-old gorilla’s decision to abandon her group in order to safeguard her young in Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains “unusual” and “amazing.”
When Mashami was born in March, Pasika had just become a mother.
When Pasika’s group’s male leader, the silverback gorilla, passed away, everything abruptly altered. In order to join other groups that still had a silverback leader, the group’s female gorillas split out and joined them.
When a mother gorilla joined a new group, her young was slain, which happens frequently to many different types of social animals so the new leader can establish his dominance.
“Normally, female mountain gorillas like Pasika spend their entire lives living in groups and rely on the adult male — called a silverback — to protect their young,” the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund (DFGF) said in a statement.
“If the silverback dies, the group may stay together if there is another male who can assume leadership; if not, females will immediately transfer to another group. They never live completely on their own — until now.”
Pasika decided not to join another group. She is trying to brave the wild on her own, with her baby attached to her.
“What mother Pasika is doing highlights the great empathy, intelligence, and adaptability of mountain gorillas,” the DFGF wrote. “It is clear that Pasika recognizes the risks transferring [families] poses to her infant, and is avoiding doing so with extreme determination.”
Researchers are a little concerned for the little family, referring to Pasika as “Wonder Woman” at times. Nobody is certain how long Pasika will be able to do this as silverback gorillas frequently offer moms and newborns the security they require.
But she and Mashami are being watched by others. The duo is routinely spotted by DFGF employees in the forest, and they appear to be in good health.
“There is still so much to learn about one of our closest living relatives,” Dr. Tara Stoinski, president and CEO and chief scientific officer of the DFGF, said.
“Pasika has shown us that these feats of bravery are not limited to our own species. And it also reinforces what we all know to be true for us humans — that there’s nothing quite as powerful in this world as a mother’s love for her child.”