|Place of Birth:||North Carolina Zoo|
Who is Bakhari?
Bakhari is the sweet, pretty girl. She has been that her entire life. Bakhari was born on tax day, April 15, 1998, at the North Carolina Zoo. Her mother rejected her but that is certainly the last rejection she will ever receive. The staff and docents at the North Carolina Zoo doted on Bakhari during the three months they took care of her. Because the zoo was renovating their chimpanzee exhibit, a process that would take over a year, it was not logistically possible for them to raise and integrate Bakhari into their group.
The Chimpanzee SSP had learned of another infant, only two weeks older than Bakhari, who was also being reared by humans. The best thing for both infants was to be raised together. The SSP asked if the Saint Louis Zoo would be willing to take on the task of raising and integrating the little girls into Mollie and Smoke's family. We agreed, and within a day of each other, Holly and Bakhari arrived from two different zoos to begin a new life at the Saint Louis Zoo. Caretakers who had helped raise them brought each to the Zoo. Only three months old and acquainted with multiple human “parents,” both adjusted well to new keepers and docents who would be their caretakers for the next year. Bakhari and Holly accepted each other easily and it was not long before they hated being separated. They slept, explored, played and occasionally bickered together. They became and remain the best of friends.
Best of friends but with distinct personalities. Bakhari, with her rounder face and chubby body, was also the baby who loved to cuddle. As chimp babysitters, our role is to be there for them, to respond to their needs. We don’t decide when they cuddle; we don’t decide what games they will play. They make the decisions and we are there to support and encourage them. Unlike Holly who preferred rough play to cuddling, Bakhari melted the hearts of her human parents when she crawled into their laps to sleep. She was also not as brave as Holly; when introduced to new surroundings, Bakhari stayed close to her caretakers for much longer than Holly before she began to explore. Nor did Bakhari enjoy the rough play on which Holly thrived. When Holly and Bakhari were first introduced to Mollie and Cinder, Bakhari spent more of her time sitting sweetly by Mollie while Holly and Cinder roughhoused. The same held true when the two girls met Jimiyu and Hugo. Whereas Jimiyu loves to play rough, Hugo is more gentle so Bakhari spent more of her time playing with him.
Her sweet nature seemed to work toward her advantage when she was integrated into the family group. The keepers noticed that Bakhari searched briefly for her favorite food when it was spread throughout the exhibit. Her strategy was to approach the older chimps and demurely stare at the food they were eating. Unable to resist, they often let her take or gave her a piece of their food.
No Longer Spoiled
Times have changed. Bakhari is maturing from a child into a teenager and can’t get away with everything she used to. It has proven to be a bumpy time for her but her friend Hugo is the alpha male, a situation that may work to her advantage. The death of Mollie has left all the girls to work through their relationships without the years of experience their foster mother had to offer them.
Bakhari was the last female to enter the Fragile Forest yard. Reminiscent of her behavior as an infant, Bakhari held back and watched her sister Holly explore. Only time will tell of Bakhari's adjustment to her new environment and the changing relationships within her adopted family.