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Bobo, a giant gorilla in a sanctuary, is always friendly and gregarious, but one day he starts acting strangely and appears detached from others. The worried caregivers find that Bobo's suspicious behavior is related to a secret item he hides in his paws. And when they finally figure out what Bobo is hiding, everyone is left utterly amazed.
The questioned Bobo is an African male gorilla in Cameroon's Mefou Primate Sanctuary, which is run by the UK-based charity Ape Action Africa and aims to refuge endangered apes among other animals. Bobo came here at only two years old when he was left orphaned by poaching.
Psychologically traumatized by the tragic loss of his parents, Bobo was less sociable in the first several months after he was rescued by the sanctuary. Gratifyingly, he has now grown into an adult gorilla and even become the most dominant ape around that most poachers would be scared of. But that doesn't mean he is an angry or aggressive ape.
Unlike most of his invasive peers, 350-pound Bobo is actually a darling who gives his caregivers an easy time. As time passes by, he earns not only the caregivers' love but the other apes' respect, becoming the alpha ape in the sanctuary. Many younger apes have tried to challenge Bobo for the crown, but none has succeeded.
One day, Bobo began displaying behavior that was inconsistent with his position. Previously happy and gregarious, the big ape suddenly turned detached, avoiding other apes' company and always lurking and hiding under overgrown leaves. That was the very first time that the sanctuary's staff saw an ape do something as strange as this.
After noticing Bobo's abrupt changes in behavior, Elissa, one of his favorite caregivers, was puzzled, unable to figure out what was going wrong. Meanwhile, she kept on red alert and surveilled him closely, in case he should pose a threat to himself or those around. With time, Elissa found that Bobo wasn't just hiding but hiding something in the foliage.
The staff at the sanctuary admits that the primates under their care have usually suffered some sort of trauma due to the commonplace poaching and deforestation in Cameroon. So, they tailor their care of each ape accordingly and even offer specialized treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. Nevertheless, secretly monitoring a giant ape closely wasn't an easy task.
Because Bobo kept avoiding others, including Elissa, it was even harder for her to pinpoint what he was hiding. But she was determined and cautiously followed him around the enclosure. One day, Bobo seemed to have put the secret item in his hand on a grassy area, but when Elissa approached that spot after Bobo left, nothing strange was found.
Later that day, Elissa realized that Bobo had never hidden the item but carried it along with him all the time. When she eventually got a chance to get close enough to the ape, her eyes popped seeing what Bobo was holding was not an average item but a living thing. Bobo soon realized he was being watched, he took off and jumped into the lush foliage for hiding.
Elissa followed him carefully and then heard the living thing in Bobo's hand crying, but she was too far off to identify it. The little creature Bobo was carrying looked like a rodent from afar. But this was pretty strange, given that a rodent would typically escape a gorilla, while the one Bobo was holding seemed quite comfortable and enjoyable in the ape's paws.
To identify the little animal, Elissa turned to binoculars and finally confirmed that the ape's little friend wasn't a rodent - it was a galago, more known as a bushbaby. You may think it was probably a primate that the staff lost track of in the enclosure, but that was impossible to happen as the sanctuary cared for each primate individually. Then where did the bushbaby come from?
The staff at the sanctuary concluded that the bushbaby must have come from the surrounding forest. The giant ape took care of the tiny bushbaby as if it was his own child, and the little guy was obviously comfortable around his big friend. Their special friendship is already a surprise, but seeing a galago itself is even more surprising as these creatures are very rare.
Elissa explained that galagos are normally nocturnal, meaning that they are rarely seen during the day. Plus, the placement of the refuge made the interaction between the rescued primates and other wildlings almost impossible. So, you can now understand how extraordinary it is to see a human-cared ape breaking bread with a wild bushbaby.
Soon enough, the other apes in the enclosure discovered what was preoccupying their leader. "Understandably, this discovery led to a lot of commotion within that group of apes as they were curious to meet the new guy," Elissa said. But Bobo kept his mates all at a distance to make sure his new friend wouldn't be disturbed.
Bobo certainly handled his tiny friend with the utmost care and was once seen cradling the bushbaby in the morning. Also, the ape tried to help the little galago return to his natural habitat by lifting him up to a branch above the enclosure. Unexpectedly, such a breathtaking moment was recorded on camera and was later posted on Facebook.
Captioned "Our silverback gorilla Bobo made a surprising new friend this week - a wild bushbaby!" the video went viral almost instantly. It racked up over 1.7 million views and over 2,000 comments in a short while. Lots of viewers were deeply moved by the heartwarming, soul-searching friendship between the giant gorilla and his tiny galago friend.
One viewer commented, "These gorillas have a very nurturing and empathic nature, the human race could learn from these beautiful, thoughtful animals." Another wrote, "Exactly why I love gorillas... because they're amazingly gentle giants who are extremely intelligent animals." These comments heightened people's awareness of protecting endangered species.
Gorillas are highly intelligent. They have shown their intelligence in many areas such as construction and communication. Wild gorillas can build ladders to help their babies climb, make around 25 different sounds, and use sticks to gauge the depth of water. And with about 98.3% similarities in genetic material with humans, gorillas are one of our closest relatives.
Sadly, gorillas are one of the most endangered species across the world, especially in the Congo Basin. The main challenges they face are massive poaching and habitat loss due to deforestation. Thankfully, there are charity organizations working to alter that narrative, and Ape Action Africa is just one of them.
Founded as a UK charity named Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund in 1996, Ape Action Africa is one of the largest primate conservation projects in Africa, housing around 300 gorillas, monkeys, and chimpanzees. However, they are now in urgent need of a huge, steady flow of funds to refuge these primates.
Bobo's story has enlightened the public of these animals' plight and these charity groups' efforts. "It is incredibly heartening to see how the efforts of so many different groups have paid off. The threats to gorillas haven't disappeared entirely, so now the challenge must be to ensure that these achievements are sustained long into the future," said Sir David Attenborough, the famous BBC broadcaster.
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