Gorilla Acts As Babysitter For A Mom Who Needs Some Alone Time

All moms need this 👏👏👏

All hardworking moms need a break sometimes — and that’s true in the animal world as well. Luckily, for the mountain gorillas of Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains, a teenage babysitter named Ubukombe is happy to help. 

“Ubukombe never misses a chance to volunteer to babysit for the babies in the group,” Donna Gorman, communications specialist for The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, told The Dodo. “And her babysitting gives the mothers a break from maternal duties.”

Mountain gorilla Gutangara relaxes with her baby
Gutangara rests with one of her babies. | Jean Paul Hirwa/Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

Recently, Ubukombe was spotted caring for a newborn while his exhausted mom, Gutangara, rested peacefully nearby. Gutangara belongs to Pablo’s Group, a historic group that has been monitored by the Fossey Fund since 1993.

With seven living children, Gutangara is the most successful female gorilla they've seen — and she often has her hands full. It’s willing volunteers like Ubukombe who make Gutangara’s growing family possible.

You can watch the adorable video of Ubukombe babysitting here:

“Babysitting is observed in gorillas, but in some groups more frequently than in others, and by some gorillas more than others,” Gorman said. “During resting time, many grown-ups sleep while the young gorillas play or are being groomed by other grownups.”

Ubukombe’s knack for babysitting is even more impressive since she's only six years old. “[She] is frequently observed taking care of the group’s babies, despite her young age,” Gorman said. “We often see Ubukombe grooming and cuddling infants.”

Mountain gorillas nurse their babies
Cedric Ujeneza/The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

Ubukombe’s babysitting services not only help the mothers — they are saving her species. According to a recent census, only 1,063 mountain gorillas remain. The time that the baby spends apart from his mother, no matter how brief, increases his independence.

“The sooner the infant becomes independent, the sooner the mother can give birth again,” Gorman said. “It typically takes three and a half to four years for a gorilla mother to wean her infant, and during that time, they do not get pregnant.”

Thanks to conservation efforts, mountain gorillas are rebounding from the brink of extinction. And with more helping hands like Ubukombe, they might even thrive.

To help support the protection of mountain gorillas like the Pablo Group, you can make a donation to The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.