Jun 24, 2009

Of Gorillas, Fishbowls, and Moms

This is Bokito, a gorilla housed in the Rotterdam Zoo, who achieved international fame on May 18, 2007, for escaping his enclosure, attacking a woman, and then going on a smashing spree in a nearby restaurant. He was sedated with a tranquilizer gun and placed back in his enclosure, which is (has been?) to be upgraded to include one-way mirrors for visitor viewing, as opposed to the open windows that had him living in a fishbowl environment.

Photo by Edgar Thissen

The woman he attacked had been visiting him on average four times a week, and claimed a special bond with him. She is seen in the video below. As any primatologist will tell you, don't make eye contact with primates: it will see such behavior as a challenge and will make them angry (as seen in the video). It's no wonder that Bokito sought out this woman and savaged her, including a many-times-over fractured arm and over 100 bite marks.

Despite having been warned by zoo staff to stop antagonizing Bokito, she's now suing the zoo (or was, as of 2007). Though zoo visitors should be kept safe from the animals at all times, and clearly the enclosure wasn't sufficient to contain Bokito (who had escaped back in 2004 as well), it's impossible not to see a bit of poetic justice going on here.

My cousin once taunted a silverback at a zoo. I was still in a stroller at the time. My mom was trying to get him to stop, but my cousin was persistent. The gorilla responded by hurling feces at us. I was saved from being pelted with gorilla poo that day by my mom's quick reaction: she yanked my stroller back just as the poo splattered in the very spot where I had been innocently parked. Thanks, mom.

The Great Escape Of Gorilla Bokito - The funniest bloopers are right here


Vanessa said...

That is one of the saddest and most pathetic things I have ever seen - one of the most magnificent miracles of nature reduced to being a circus freakshow act. It's despicable of us.
No wonder I haven't been to the zoo in nearly 25 years, they are one of the most telling examples of the shameful legacy that we will leave on this earth.
Poor Bokito.

Raging Wombat said...

Depends on the zoo, Vanessa. Some are as bad as you say. But others are the only thing standing between a species' extinction and recovery. Not all zoos are equal.

Danielle said...

That woman is a complete idiot for provoking him like that. There are always signs up letting people know what to do and what not to do. She should have read them and not upset him. He's already living in captivity...why upset him even more? And suing a zoo? Why not just say that you don't want the animals to have adequate care or food? Zoos aren't there to make huge profits, they're around to help animals survive and to teach people about them and how to help the wildlife of our planet.
When you do something stupid, you should pay for your mistakes...and she should pay for her's, not the zoo.

c.natalius said...

I do live in holland and ofcourse heared about the news then.
the only thing i could think of then was good for bokito to show that woman for not messing with him.

as for my opinion about zoo's its 50/50. indeed a lot of species are held up in extinction prevention programmes wich are good, and a lot of animals may live on not too large grounds/areas. but some animals, like gorillas or especially cats and sorts, have way too less space to move around and it's them i feel the most sorry for

Vanessa said...

Yes, even the Toronto Zoo has helped to reintroduce extinct species into areas in North America. But almost all species in zoos are not going to be reintroduced - there is no habitat to reintroduce them into.
Elephants are being culled by the tens of thousands, so why keep them in inadequate conditions in zoos other than they are the biggest draw ever for crowds?
More tigers and big cats are being born in captivity than are existing in the wild anymore, when was the last time anyone released them back into their environment? There is no hope in integrating them back into what doesn't exist.
I used to think the same way, that not all zoos are created equal, but I have have watched how those animals act in captivity and the only question I ask is whether I would prefer their life or prefer death. I can tell you that I wouldn't live under those circumstances voluntarily and if they had a choice I doubt they would either.

Ellen said...

I am and always will be an advocate for teaching our youth about the animals we are working so hard to keep from extinction, but we need to focus our as much of an effort on the habitats as well. It does us no good to save a species if it does not have a natural home. I would almost rather see an animal extinct than caged.