Travel Tip: Never Imitate a Gorilla

Travel Tip: Never Imitate a Gorilla

Apr 29, 2015|Traveler Resources| by Luisa Guaracao

Earlier this week a young girl at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha was captured on video playfully imitating a silverback gorilla. While the girl and her family may have initially found it amusing, the gorilla certainly did not. Moments after the imitation took place, the gorilla powerfully charged towards the girl, leaving large cracks on the glass barrier that separated the two of them.

The video, which has received over 22 million views so far, teaches all of us an important lesson: NEVER imitate a gorilla.

Although the innocent little girl did not know it at the moment, by pounding her chest she was intensely provoking the gorilla. Essentially, gorillas pound their chests to show their strength and dominance. While it may seem like an aggressive act, it’s quite the opposite. The gesture is actually an attempt to avoid confrontation. Usually, what will happen is that the more intimidating gorilla will scare the other gorilla away without a fight. In this case, there was no other gorilla, just a small little girl. So, what happened? According to a representative from the Henry Doorly Zoo, the zoo’s three gorillas are fighting to be the alpha male, which explains their aggressive behavior. Besides being a provocative gesture, it’s also highly offensive. It’s basically the equivalent of mocking a Native American by putting your hand over your mouth and yelling. Not cool.

Even though gorillas may have an intimidating complexion, due to their enormous size, they’re actually not as aggressive as this video portrays them to be. Or did we all forget the adorable video of Robin Willaims and Koko the Gorilla? Ok fine, I’ll admit that Koko is a special case. However, our dear friend and photographer Todd Gustafson has been several feet away from regular wild gorillas many times and experienced nothing but tranquility. The key is to approach them with respect and gentleness. Treat them like you would treat any human, and you’ll never experience terror like the one depicted in the video.