What was intended to be an intimate session in...

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- What was intended to be an intimate session in child rearing for new mothers turned into a gorilla peep show at the Columbus Zoo.

Zoo officials this week had hoped that gorillas Toni and Joansie would be ecouraged to breast-feed their babies if they watched a woman volunteer breast-feed her child.


The simian mothers didn't know how to breastfeed their young because keepers have always taken newborn babies away from their moms at the zoo, said zoo director Jack Hanna. But this summer disease killed one newborn gorilla and forced hospitalization of another and officials feel their illness might have been prevented if they had been breast-fed.

So a woman, whom Hanna declined to identify, stood outside the glass enclosure in the new gorilla house with her baby and demonstrated breast-feeding.

The trouble was, her only viewer was Oscar, a male Gorilla, who 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 the ape films on breast-feeding.

'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.

The Columbus Zoos is the only facility in the world to have four generations of gorillas in captivity.

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