Earlier this week a 4 year old boy fell into a gorilla enclosure in the US city of Cincinnati. Despite not harming the boy, Harambe, a 17 year old male gorilla was shot and killed by workers at the zoo after he dragged the boy from the moat he had fallen into. But was this really necessary or were the Americans being ‘trigger-happy’? Are gorillas dangerous animals and a threat to humans?
A very similar situation arose 30 years ago at a zoo on the island of Jersey. Just as happened in Cincinnati, a small boy climbed through the barriers and then fell into the gorilla enclosure. In Jersey however, no gorillas were harmed. Famously, a male gorilla named Jambo stood beside the unconscious child and stroked his back until he awoke. Jambo then moved away so that zoo keepers could collect him.
Gorillas are certainly very strong animals and could, if they wished, easily kill a human child. Yet, despite their size, gorillas are notoriously gentle creatures. Male gorillas have been seen to show aggression but this is reserved for when rival groups of gorillas meet. The dominant males from rival groups may fight one another, even going so far as to kill, but this is rare and comes only after a long display during which either side has ample opportunity to back down.
Gorillas are our closest relatives after chimpanzees. They are extremely intelligent animals and some have even been taught how to communicate with us through sign language. They make use of tools, for example measuring the depth of a stream with a stick before attempting to cross, and are even thought to have ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious’ feelings.
Obviously, you wouldn’t want to mess with a gorilla – in a straight fight he will beat you hands down. But gorillas have much more reason to fear us than we do them. Poaching, habitat loss and the spread of disease – all caused by humans – have caused the deaths of thousands of these tender beings. There are around 150 reports of people being killed by gorillas and most of these were themselves hunting the gorillas – no great loss if you ask me!
Here at Education Quizzes we are keen to promote environmental causes and there are ways that we can protect gorillas. The WWF does a lot of conservation work and has a scheme of gorilla adoption. Why not see if you can help?
If you care about the environment and conservation, then you may find these Nature quizzes are right up your street. We have more than sixty devoted to all aspects of the natural world, from British birds to rocks and minerals – we even have questions about outer space! Go on, take a look and put your natural knowledge to the test!