“That’s my baby! That’s my baby!” the mother screamed when her son fell into Harambe’s enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, in May 2016. It sent a chill through the crowd.
Harambe Was Shot And Killed:
Harambe, who was a Western lowland gorilla, didn’t protect the child, instead, he stood over him for some time, then grabbed him by the ankle and dragged him through the water, across the floor of the enclosure.
Then workers at the zoo had to kill him to save the child. Harambe’s death sent shockwaves of mourning around the world, and quickly became a long lasting internet meme.
The Story Of Binti Jua:
Whether Harambe deserved to die is debatable, but that’s what happened. But a story from two decades ago shows how different things could have been.
On August 16, 1996, Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo had a similar scene. A toddler fell 15 feet into a habitat with seven gorillas. One gorilla, Binti Jua, picked him up and cradled him like a pietà. He carried him to the enclosure’s doorway and gently set him down for the paramedics. She knew that a gorilla enclosure wasn’t the place for a little boy.
Binti Jua, who is still alive at her 32, is the same type of gorilla as Harambe: a Western lowland. The story of Binti Jua received a lot of attention at the time. She was praised for her maternal nature. A Chicago grocer offered her 25 pounds of free bananas. Dozens of citizens offered to adopt her.
“She picked up the boy, kind of cradling him, and walked him around,” Sondra Catzen, a zoo spokeswoman said. The boy was unconscious when Binti Jua picked him up. He didn’t know he had a savior until he woke up in front of the paramedics. He later made a full recovery. Primatologist Frans de Waal uses Binti Jua as an example of empathy in animals.
However, Binti Jua had a sad upbringing. Her name means “daughter of sunlight” in Swahili. But her mother, in the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, treated her indifferently. She was cradled and raised by human handlers and other gorillas in her enclosure. Eventually, Binti Jua became a hero. The story of Binti Jua is still known in the annals of the Brookfield Zoo.
Jumbo Rescued The Little Boy Levan Merritt:
There are many other examples of animals (especially primates) demonstrating apparent altruism. In August 1986, in a situation very similar to Binti’s, a male gorilla named Jambo, of Jersey Zoo, protected a 5-year-old child, Levan Merritt, who had fallen into his enclosure. After falling, Merritt had also lost his consciousness.
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Jambo stood guard over little Merritt when he was unconscious, placing himself between the boy and other gorillas in what ethologists analyze as a protective gesture. He later stroked the unconscious boy’s back. When the boy regained consciousness and started to cry, Jambo and the other gorillas retreated in panic, and the silverback led them into a small hut in the corner of their pen. A paramedic and two keepers rescued the boy.
Jambo was not trained to care for children and was raised in captivity by his own gorilla mother, so that his actions may have involved an instinctive sense that the child needed his help. Similar behavior has been seen in chimps who appear to comfort each other after an attack or other trauma.
Unfortunately, Jambo was found dead by his keeper in the gorilla enclosure on September 16th of 1992. He was 31. The cause of death was the spontaneous rupture of a major artery, resulting in a hemorrhage in his chest.