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Zoo animals learn mama's got their back

Mothering can be a thing to behold at the Buffalo Zoo.

Debi, the snow monkey, can be seen climbing with Kota, her adolescent offspring.

Agnes, the giraffe, still nurses Zuri.

Inside the gorilla exhibit, Sidney can often be seen with tiny Kayin clinging to her back.

Monica – the only surviving rhino birth by artificial insemination in North America – often hovers close to her mom, Tashi.

At Otter Creek, Ellie has been busy teaching her pups Luke and Leia to swim.

Indian rhinoceros Tashi and her 2-year-old calf, Monica, at the Buffalo Zoo, Friday, May 6, 2016. Rhino moms stay pregnant for up to 17 months and will nurse for more than two years. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Indian rhinoceros Tashi and her 2-year-old calf, Monica, at the Buffalo Zoo, Friday, May 6, 2016. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

“The public gets the opportunity to learn by watching them,” said Todd Geise, the zoo’s marketing director. “They learn how the mother teaches her 2-month-old otter pups to fend for themselves. Or they may see mothers observing the adolescents and making sure they stay out of trouble. There is a huge learning opportunity about wildlife.”

Caitlin Fregelette, a Hamburg native now living in southern Maryland, returned to Buffalo on Friday to celebrate Mother’s Day with her mother, Mary Brogcinski of Elma. Mother and daughter, with Fregelette clutching her infant daughter, talked about motherhood while watching the giraffes.

“Every day is new,” Fregelette said. “Children are learning new stuff all the time, and it’s wonderful to watch them get that a-ha moment when they figure out something for themselves.

“It really is a gift having a child. It’s just fun, and it’s amazing,” Fregelette said. “There’s really no other words to describe the feeling, and I get teary-eyed talking about it.”

Agnes, and her 1 1/2-year-old daughter, Zuri, at the Buffalo Zoo, Friday, May 6, 2016. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Agnes, and her 1 1/2-year-old daughter, Zuri, at the Buffalo Zoo, Friday, May 6, 2016. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

The joy only deepens, Brogcinski said.

“For me it’s a gift to watch my child being a mother, as well, and watching her discovery of being the mom for the first time, and that joy,” Brogcinski said.

“When you look at a giraffe, you don’t know how long the nurturing part goes on between the giraffe and her baby,” she said. “But for us it’s a lifelong connection with your child, and it’s a beautiful thing.”

Watching the development of young zoo animals is a pastime for some zoo regulars.

“I think the fun part is not just the newborns, but the observation of their growth into a juvenile and adolescent,” Geise said. “Some people are here two, three times a week to follow their favorite animals.”

The zoo’s a popular place to go on Mother’s Day. This year, 400 people will attend two sold-out brunches.

email: msommer@buffnews.com

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