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“Binti Jua is a western lowland gorilla female in the Brookfield Zoo, in Brookfield, Illinois. Binti is most well known for an incident which occurred on August 16, 1996, when she was eight years old.

A three-year old boy climbed the wall around her zoo enclosure and fell 18 feet onto concrete below, rendering him unconscious with a broken hand and a vicious gash on the side of his face.

Binti walked to the boy’s side while helpless spectators screamed, certain the gorilla would harm the child. Another larger female gorilla approached, and Binti growled.

Binti picked up the child, cradling him with her right arm as she did her own infant, gave him a few pats on the back, and carried him 18 meters (59 ft) to an access entrance, so that zoo personnel could retrieve him. Her 17-month-old baby, Koola, clutched her back throughout the incident. The boy spent four days in the hospital and recovered fully.”

Binti Jua has a daughter with the late, wild-born silverback Abe, named Koola. She also has a son with another wild-born silverback, named Ramar, who was purchased by Jack Badal as a baby and was trained to do circus stunts. Ramar inspired a book called Jungle to Stage. Their son is named Bakari and resides at the St. Louis Zoo with his half-brother, Nadaya. Binti has one granddaughter, born to her daughter Koola and silverback Ramar, named Kamba.

 

After the incident, experts debated whether Binti’s actions were a result of training by the zoo or animal altruism. Because Binti had been hand-raised, as opposed to being raised in the wild by other gorillas, she had had to be specially trained to care for an infant and to take her child to personnel for examinations. One could assume that this training resulted in her behavior when the little boy fell into her enclosu Primatologist Frans de Waal, however, uses Binti Jua as an example of empathy in animals.

However, there are many other examples of animals (especially primates) demonstrating apparent altruism. The strongest argument for the altruistic explanation involves a situation very similar to Binti’s, in which a male gorilla named Jambo, of Jersey Zoo, protected a 5-year-old child who had fallen into his enclosure. 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 “comfort” each other after an attack or other trauma.

If only humanity would show as much dignity and care for all beings.

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