Twenty Year Anniversary of Binti-Jua

Gorilla related tragedies have been common for decades. Luckily, however, not all of them have to have as sad of an ending as the recent encounter with the gorilla Harambe does.


Twenty years ago, on August 16, 1996, a group of bystanders cried out in shock as a small toddler fell into a nature habitat at the Brookfield Zoo. The three year old fell over 15 feet into the gorilla enclosure eventually landing on the concrete below. Many expected the worst to occur, but all were shocked as the event unfolded.


The exhibit that the child fell in to was for a rare western lowland gorilla named Binti-Jua. These gorillas are generally docile in nature, especially to their young children. In addition, Binti-Jua has been noted to be an extremely friendly female gorilla.


Slowly, Binti-Jua lumbered over to the toddler, and the crowds standing around were quickly put at ease. It seemed that the gorilla in the enclosure acted out of an innate and purely materialistic response for the child. It seemed to naturally have compassion for the toddler that was crying and stuck in the cage.


She tried cradling the child to get him to calm down and walked around gently with him, allowing the toddler to feel the smooth rocking motion of a gorillas gait. Of course, the boy continued to be scared and uncomfortable.


The boy was still shocked and crying when the paramedics reached him inside the exhibit. At that point, Binti-Jua quickly gave the child to the rescue team. The boy eventually arrived at the local hospital alert and crying. He soon was treated and made a full recovery.


The gentle gorilla quickly became an icon as residents around the area cheered for his calm demeanor. In fact, a local grocer offered 25 pounds of bananas in her honor!


The personality of Binti-Jua is probably a result of her upbringing. As she was shunned by her mother as a young gorilla, humans tended to her and bottle fed her. She was cradled in their arms, just as she cradled the boy that fell into her exhibit. Eventually, the other apes around her took time to groom and socialize with her, making her loved among animals, her caretakers, and the spectators.


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