Christena Nippert-Eng: Author of "Gorillas Up Close" and "What is Baby Gorilla Doing?"

May 31, 2018 Colleen Bentley

By: Colleen Bentley, Marketing Manager








Pictures from our visit to the Chicago Lincoln Park Zoo with Chris

Christena Nippert-Eng is nothing short of accomplished – she’s a sociologist, Professor of Informatics at Indiana University Bloomington, and author of several books, including her most two recent award-winning children’s books. Her research interests include cognitive sociology, culture, technology and every life including behaviors related to privacy. Chris was able to combine her research and fascination with gorillas to write her two books Gorillas Up Close and What is Baby Gorilla Doing?, which bridge the gap between gorillas and humans for young students and toddlers, respectively.

I had the opportunity to meet with Chris along with a colleague to discuss her children’s books featuring some very special guests, the eleven gorillas that reside at the Chicago Lincoln Park Zoo. I am not a stranger to the Lincoln Park Zoo; so, when Chris asked us to meet her at the gorilla exhibit, I knew exactly where to go. Little did I know, this would be unlike any other zoo visit I had experienced over the years. Once we arrived, Chris took us to the first troop of gorillas where we stood at the glass in the chaos of grade school fieldtrips. Chris impressively identified each of the seven gorillas and gave a detailed background and personality analysis of them individually. As she spoke, I suddenly noticed the massive animals looking at her, among the sea of people at the glass. I quickly realized that they recognized her, but did not fully appreciate the unique relationships she had with them until we went to the next troop.

The second troop of gorillas was a bachelor troop – meaning it was four males living together. Within seconds of walking up to the glass, one of the gorillas spotted Chris in the crowd and made his way over to us. Being 400 pounds, this was nothing short of startling. Chris began talking to Amare, and we soon found out he was the gorilla featured on the cover of her first children’s book, Gorillas Up Close. She had brought the books with her and immediately opened to the pages with pictures of Amare and his mother, Kowali. Amare sat down at the glass, leveled his face with the book and appeared to be “reading” the pages. Chris told us gorillas have recognition abilities and that Amare connected with the images of his family on the pages of the book. The bond between him and his mother was very apparent through how intently he studied her picture and motioned for Chris to turn back to the specific picture of his mother. We sat with Amare for 20 minutes as he looked at different pictures of his mother and other gorillas he grew up with pictured in the book, something Chris had only done once before.

It was unbelievable to see firsthand the bond she has developed with each of the gorillas over her years of observing the gorillas, especially Amare. Chris has never gone on the other side of the glass; she has built her relationships solely through the power of observation. She watches the gorillas, and the gorillas watch her. This is the foundation for her studies and what she teaches her students – the skills of direct observation.

Chris and her husband Peter Eng have been clients of Doug Brown and Matt Parenti for two years. We are honored to help them lead fulfilling lives and spend time doing the things they love.


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