A mother gorilla saved a 3-year-old child that fell into her enclosure on August 16, 1996.
You’re undoubtedly familiar with the story of Harambe, who was tragically killed after a child fell into his enclosure in 2016. But you probably didn’t know that an almost identical incident took place exactly 20 years prior to the story of Harambe!
While both tales revolve around young children accidentally venturing into gorilla enclosures, their outcomes are starkly different. Both probe global discussions on animal behavior and the morality of encaged animals.
Join us as we tell the story of these two famous gorillas, shedding light on the intricate dynamics between humans and the animal kingdom.
- In 1996, Binti Jua, a gorilla mother, saved a 3-year-old child who fell into her enclosure.
- Humans partially raised Binti Jua due to her mother’s indifference.
- Gorilla mothers exhibit maternal behaviors similar to human mothers.
- Binti Jua’s actions contrasted with Harambe’s 2016 incident, where a child’s entry into an enclosure led to Harambe’s tragic death.
Getting To Know Binti-Jua
Binti Jua, a western lowland gorilla, was born on March 17, 1988, at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois. Her name, which translates to “Daughter of Sunshine” in Swahili, reflects her radiant presence.
Binti’s early life was marked by challenges; her mother, Lulu, originally from the Bronx Zoo, treated her with indifference. As a result, Binti was hand-raised by human caregivers and other gorillas in her enclosure, fostering a unique blend of wild instincts and a certain comfort with human interaction.
Gorilla Mothers Vs. Human Mothers
Maternal instincts in gorillas are a profound testament to the depth of emotions and bonds that exist in the animal kingdom.
These powerful primates, often portrayed as fierce and dominant, exhibit tender and nurturing behaviors when it comes to their offspring, mirroring the maternal care seen in humans.
Here are some of the many ways in which gorilla- and human-motherhood are alike:
- Physical Bonding: Both gorilla and human mothers establish immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth, fostering a deep emotional connection.
- Nursing: Both species breastfeed their young, providing essential nutrients and antibodies.
- Teaching: Just as human mothers guide their children, gorilla mothers teach their young essential life skills like foraging, climbing, and social interaction.
- Long Dependency Period: In both species, offspring remain dependent on their mothers for an extended period, allowing time for learning and growth.
- Social Introduction: Mothers introduce their young to the broader social group or community, teaching them how to interact and form bonds with others.
- Sacrifice: Both human and gorilla mothers often prioritize the needs of their young above their own, ensuring their well-being and survival.
Mother Gorilla Saves Child: The Incident
In 1996, a remarkable incident occurred at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois, where a three-year-old boy fell nearly 20 feet into the Zoo’s gorilla enclosure.
Binti Jua, an eight-year-old mother gorilla, approached the unconscious boy amidst the panic of onlookers. Instead of harming him, Binti Jua carefully picked up the child. She cradled him in her arms and carried him to a door where rescuers awaited.
Notably, Binti had her own 17-month-old baby, Koola, clinging to her back throughout the incident, suggesting that her maternal instincts might have played a role in her compassionate response.
The boy sustained injuries, including a broken hand and facial cuts, and required hospitalization for four days. Eventually, though, he made a full recovery – and remains in good health till this day.
Binti’s Rewards and Fame
Just like Harambe, Binti became an international sensation following the incident – sadly for very different reasons, though.
Media outlets around the world covered the story, showcasing the gentle nature of this female gorilla and challenging preconceived notions about wild animals. Binti Jua, whose name means “Daughter of Sunshine” in Swahili, became a symbol of empathy and maternal instinct in the animal kingdom.
She received special treats and attention from zoo personnel, and visitors flocked to the zoo to catch a glimpse of the now-famous gorilla. People even offered to adopt her, and a local grocer gifted her 25 pounds of bananas.
Mother Gorilla Saves Child: Theories Around Her Caring Response
Binti Jua’s remarkable act of compassion became a subject of much discussion and speculation.
#1 Maternal Instincts Already In Motion
One compelling reason for her gentle behavior could be her maternal instincts. At the time of the incident, she had her own 17-month-old baby, Koola, clinging to her back. This maternal bond might have extended her nurturing instincts to the fallen child, prompting her to cradle and protect him as she would her own offspring.
#2 The Boy’s Unconsciousness
Additionally, the fact that the boy was unconscious could have significantly influenced her response. Being unconscious, the boy was a non-threatening presence in her enclosure. Instead, Binti Jua might have recognized the vulnerability of the unconscious boy, leading her to act with the care and concern that she did.
#3 Being Raised By Humans
Binti Jua’s compassionate response might also be attributed to her unique upbringing. Partially raised by human caregivers due to her mother’s indifference, Binti developed a familiarity with human behaviors and interactions from a young age.
This early exposure to humans could have fostered a sense of understanding and empathy toward them. Instead of seeing a potential threat, Binti possibly recognized a vulnerable being in need, reflecting the deep bond she shared with her human caretakers.
In Comparison To Harambe
Naturally, the story of Binti reminds us of a similar story but without a happily-ever-after-ending. We’re talking about Harambe, of course.
In 2016 at the Cincinnati Zoo, the same thing happened – a child fell into the gorilla enclosure. This time it involved a male Western Lowland Gorilla, Harambe.
This encounter, however, took a tragic turn. The child, who climbed into the enclosure, was dragged around by Harambe. While some argue that Harambe’s actions were not overtly aggressive, the situation was potentially life-threatening according to the zoo officials. To ensure the child’s safety, they made the heart-wrenching decision to fatally shoot Harambe.
Binti Jua’s incident showcased the potential for empathy and care in gorillas, while Harambe’s tragic end ignited debates on zoo safety, animal rights, and the ethical dilemmas faced when human and animal worlds collide.
Mother Gorilla Saves Child: Conclusion
The story of Binti-Jua, a gorilla mother, and how she extended her maternal instincts to a human child and saved him is truly heartwarming.
What makes this story all the more interesting, though, is its similarities with the story of Harambe.
Binti’s story underscores the profound emotional depth and capacity for empathy in gorillas, mirroring the maternal care observed in humans. On the other hand, Harambe’s tragic fate serves as a somber reminder of the unpredictability of such encounters.
That being said, both incidents raise complex questions about the morality of keeping animals encaged in Zoos. As Binti-Jua so clearly demonstrates, gorillas deeply emphatic and emotional beings, just like us.
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