On April 18, 2019, I got the chance to visit Zoo Atlanta. This was a day I had been waiting and waiting for. I woke up super early in the morning because I couldn't wait for the day to begin!
At the start of the day I got to go into the Dian Fossey headquarters. I got to meet most of the Fossey Fund staff including Catherine (fundraising guru), Greg (database guy), Donna (data expert), Rand (image master), Myriam (Finance and HR specialist) and Helen (special projects and all around master greeter/tour guide)! I also got to meet Dr. Tara Stoinski, Fossey CEO and Chief Scientific Officer, but more on Tara in a bit. Walking around the HQ I got to see some amazing pictures Dian Fossey took while she was in Africa working with the gorillas. It was so cool to explore this space where so much important work happens!
Next we were off for a special behind-the-scenes tour led by Jodi Carrigan, Lead Primate Keeper. Our tour included having the most spectacular view of the primates in their enclosure. I got to learn the names of all the gorillas, and the orangutans. The gorillas love to sit on the rocks and pose for all the visitors. The orangutans loved to climb and swing for their fans. I even witnessed an orangutan peeing! I got to see how gorillas communicate and interact from a much better perspective. I also learned that gorillas and orangutans love peanuts just like me!
While walking around the different ape yards, I learned that Jodi took care of the gorilla Ivan, from "The One and Only Ivan" novel. That is one of my favorite books so it was really neat to talk to Jodi about Ivan and how he was such a special gorilla.
After the tour, we got to have lunch with Tara and Jodi. It was so cool hearing and talking about the experiences that everyone has had. Like how Tara has gone and seen the gorillas in Africa almost every summer! And how Jodi has been working with the gorillas at Zoo Atlanta for 17 years! Talking with Tara gave me the idea of focusing the 2019 Gorilla Gala on deforestation and replenishing bamboo. The Dian Fossey Fund is doing a bamboo campaign because bamboo is a main food source for gorillas and it's an important resource for the local communities. DFGF is working to teach people outside of the gorilla's habitat to plant bamboo nurseries rather than come into the forest and take from the gorilla's supply. After lunch my family and I got the rest of the day to explore the zoo. I got to do a really cool ropes obstacle course, and I got to see flamingos, which is an animal that I had never seen before. The Dian Fossey people gave me a hand carved gorilla, a notebook, bamboo bookmarks, a bracelet, and a pencil case. It was an experience that I am sure that I will never forget.