COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An experiment to teach gorillas at the Columbus Zoo to breast-feed their babies by watching a woman breast-feed her child fell through because a male gorilla did most of the watching, zoo officials said Friday.
Zoo Director Jack Hanna said the woman, whom he declined to identify, stood outside the glass enclosure in the new gorilla house and demonstrated breast-feeding.
However, Hanna said the male Gorilla, Oscar, hogged the show and wouldn't let the two females see the demonstration.
'Oscar watched the most,' Hanna said. 'He didn't seem to want to allow Toni and Joansie to see. We had to entice him with bananas to get him away so the girls could see.
Hanna announced several weeks ago that he would show them films on breast-feeding in hopes they'd ape the technique.
'I got 15 to 20 telephone calls from women who said they would be willing to breast-feed their babies in front of the gorillas so we wouldn't have to resort to films,' he said.
Hanna said he thinks breast-feeding may have prevented a disease that killed one newborn gorilla this summer and caused another to be hospitalized.
Because the zoo has always taken newborn apes away from their mothers, they don't know how to breastfeed their young, Hanna said.
The Columbus Zoos is the only facility in the world to have four generations of gorillas in captivity.