Transcription of videotaped observations

Rio Grande Zoo, Albuquerque, New Mexico, September 16, 1992


Gorillas are:

            Marcus, 7-year-old male

            Tommy, 6-year-old male

            Samba, 27-year-old female

            Moko, 27-year-old male


gestures are italicized


11:30 a.m. Marcus and Tommy are playing in a relaxed manner in the grassy yard. The yard has a deep dry moat in front of it that separates the gorillas from the public.

11:31 Marcus and Tommy separate. Samba, from the right, walks slowly over to Marcus, who is lying on his back. As she approaches, he gets up and faces her quadrupedally. They circle around each other clockwise until they have switched positions, make visual contact, and then Samba walks away to the left.

11:32 (after camera break) Marcus has walked past Samba, and raised a foot back toward her in passing. They pause facing each other. Samba approaches until they are only inches apart. Marcus reaches out and tags her inner arm, bringing his hand back to himself, then briskly walks past her, retaining eye contact as long as possible. Samba half turns, thus maintaining eye contact, then Marcus walks on, back toward his play location with Tommy. He sits apart from Tommy and appears to be gently pounding his lap area.

11:34 Moko, the silverback, appears to the right. Marcus gets up and moves left, off camera. Chestbeating and a bang is heard. Marcus moves right again, back on camera, and it can be seen that Samba is now sitting right next to him. Tommy walks toward and past Moko, with a headshake. Moko a has tense-lipped face and rigid stance.

11:35 Moko walks in front of Tommy still maintaining this posture. Marcus remains seated some 15 feet to the left. Tommy then "crutch walks," swinging himself by the arms, past Moko. Moko then advances toward Marcus, who gets up quadrupedally. Moko accelerates to a run, past Marcus to Samba, who has not moved. Marcus and Moko both stand their ground, face to face, while Marcus concentrates on inspecting a grass blade and tossing it away.

11:36 Marcus slowly walks away to the left, appearing very casual- he wanders off, not in a straight line, glancing back a few times at Moko. Moko remains near Samba. After about 45 seconds, she gets up and walks away to the right. Moko grabs one of her legs, pushes her away and runs off to the left. She goes behind a rock wall structure.

11:38 Samba reappears and all seems calm, with gorillas separated and feeding on grass.

11:40 Marcus moves behind a rock wall.

11:41 Tommy goes and sits on the edge of the moat a moment, then goes down in it.

11:42 Moko looks intently at the wall Marcus has gone behind, then walks toward Samba and lies down on his stomach facing her at about 15 ft.

11:43 Marcus walks to within inches of Moko's rear end and plucks grass. Moko shows no reaction. Then Marcus stands bipedally and sways, hits toward Moko without making contact, then moves off in front of him and past Samba. Again no reaction from Moko. As Marcus moves past Samba, she makes a small "come" hand gesture toward herself. Marcus proceeds past and in front of her then seats himself facing her. He appears to pound his stomach or lap but unclear as his back is to the camera.

11:44 Marcus slaps the ground, and Samba gets up and walks away from him, going behind a rock wall. Marcus remains seated, gently pounding his stomach, for several minutes.

11:45 Marcus climbs up the rock wall, and Samba emerges from behind it and goes to the doorway of the indoor enclosure. Marcus descends and sits, with more stomach pounding. Also just plays with grass, claps, and several times puts his head on the ground, raising his bottom. Looks several times toward Samba in doorway.

11:49 Moko walks slowly toward Marcus, stares at him for about 30 seconds, then walks past Marcus and behind rock wall and lies down.

11:51 Marcus gets up and walks purposefully into moat, and it can be seen that Samba has just preceded him.

11:58 (unfortunately the camera has been following Tommy, when it is realized that Samba and Marcus can be seen in the moat, from only one very obscure and uncomfortable angle at the window.) Marcus and Samba are seated facing each other in the moat, about a foot apart. Marcus armcrosses around his chest, flings his arms out and with a playface contacts Samba, who at the same time has extended her arm to him. He mouths her wrist briefly. Both pause and look up, perhaps having just noticed the camera. Then Samba touches Marcus' side, bringing her hand back toward herself. Marcus pounds his stomach. Samba reaches between his legs and then he moves forward so that the front of his body contacts her side.

11:59 He has moved away a little. Samba moves herself a bit closer. Then Marcus moves behind her and pounds his stomach. Samba half turns toward him.

12:00 Marcus stands quadrupedally, staring at Samba, both making eye contact. He turns his head from her toward himself, she motions toward herself. He head nods, rises bipedally, makes an upward gesture, armcrosses, upward motion again. Samba reaches up to him and he sits down in front of her.

12:01 Samba lies down on her back in front of Marcus, raising her feet to her stomach. (Now unfortunately the camera moves to Tommy, who is interacting with a visitor at the window.)

12:03 The camera operator notices that Marcus and Samba are mating in the moat, face to face, and rapidly returns the camera to the moat. Samba is holding on to her feet which facilitates the position for Marcus.

(Then, the camera oprerator inadvertently switches off the camera, thinking he is switching it on. The camera is off for one minute.)

12:04 Marcus and Samba separate.

12:05 Both are sitting. Marcus has returned behind Samba and is pounding his stomach.

12.06 Marcus lies on his back in front of Samba, and raises his legs. An erection is visible. He grasps his penis for about 10 seconds, then Samba grasps it for a second, then he gets up and moves away.

12:08 (camera break) Tommy runs down into the moat with a minute armshake, towards Samba. She gestures away. Tommy then runs to Marcus, who armcrosses and extends a palm. Tommy contacts Marcus' palm, then runs away.

12:12 (camera break) Marcus moves up the moat to a seated position in front of Samba. For the next three minutes, Marcus alternates sparring with Tommy with stomach pounding in front of Samba.

12:16 Tommy has disappeared. In front of seated Samba, Marcus gestures up, armcross, slaps her head, and stomach pounds.

12:17 Marcus lies on his back in front of Samba, grasps his penis area, and extends the other palm to Samba, who does not move. Marcus continues to grasp his penis. He then flings both grasped hands above his head, rises bipedally moving hands to his genital area, armcrosses and beats sides of arms. Samba extends the back of her wrist to him. He touches it with his mouth then sits. A few seconds later, he lies on his back again, one hand at his genital area.

12:18 No response from Samba after another armcross and up, other hand at genital area. He shoves her with both hands, then moves off and stomach pounds nearby. Samba gets up and leaves moat. This ends the sex-related play session. After all return to grassy area, Moko reappears from behind rock wall.