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September 24, 2006

Gorillas


Someone, I respect in this field of research, asked me a question.

One, I really had to think about:

"Would we be doing this undocumented animal any favors by finding it? Would this animal become nothing more than another Zoo exhibit? Have you seen a gorilla exhibit? Do they look happy to you?" "Do you think finding this animal will help it or hurt it?"

Is it possible to document this animal and leave it alone?

The question wasn’t posed in an angry tone at all, but I will say it did give me pause. I did not know what to say. Then just today I read a post on a Bigfoot Message board that basically asked, are we looking for this animal to protect it - or to just satisfy our own curiosity? If we really wanted to help it, why not do what we can to protect its habitat? Hum, another question that made me think, and one which I had no answer to.

I often find I have no answers...

These questions strike right at the heart of what is the most important thing to me, the protection of this animal should it be discovered.

Last year, before my move to Dallas, I went to a zoo with a Lowlands Gorilla Exhibit. I had to see this, as I have never seen Gorillas up close before.
I jumped in a car and happily drove to see this for myself.

When I arrived I made a Bee-line for the exhibit. When I reached the exhibit, I saw massive walls made out of greyish stone and large trees and shrubs with vines, to mimic the gorillas natural habitat (I’m sure it was a far cry from it however). I then noticed an opening in the wall with a ledge and what I am assuming (and hoping) was bullet proof glass. Inside the exhibit there was lots of dirt, some grass and about 4 Lowland Gorillas, all sitting around the large trunk of a tree.

Gorillas are magnificent animals.

I have always marveled at them. They have such power and strength. You cannot look at these animals and not be in awe. I looked through the glass, and a few feet out sat a large male. I could only assume it was a male, he was much larger than the rest and from his demeanor he seemed to be the one in charge.

What a sight to behold. As he sat there with his back to me, the sunlight seemed to bounce off his hair. I never realized how shiny the hair on a gorilla really was until that moment. I could see the muscle definition on his back, shoulders and arms. This was a very strong animal.

I sat down on the ledge next to the glass and watched him, as he sat with his back to me surveying his area, when he turned his whole body around, to look behind him. I instantly stood up (I forgot I was behind this protective glass for a couple seconds). I then slowly sat back down, as I did so, he slowly made his way to the glass and sat down in the corner next to the window, against the rock wall - and promptly turned his head away from me.

Humm - How rude I thought.

I held my place - I wanted to see what he would do. Does he know I’m right here? What does this animal think when he looks at a human? Would he pound the glass? Would he be calm and gentle? Only questions I can ponder while staring at this beautiful animal.

Every so often he would glance over in my direction,

Then slowly look away, as if I was annoying him. I honestly thought to myself, "well, that is a silly thought to be having, this animal doesn’t think like I do, or a human." I tried to stay very still; I didn’t want him to go away. I was really enjoying this. For the first time in my life - I was inches away from a Gorilla. I was fascinated, and I had a thought.

What would he do if?

I took my right index finger and slowly put it up to the glass. For the first few minutes this gorilla would look at me, and then turn away. I think he even turned his nose up at me a couple times. None of the chest beating or vocalizations I would expect from a Gorilla - he just sat there, he looked at me, and then looked away.

My heart almost stopped.

I could not believe my eyes, when this Gorilla, took his hand - and put his index finger on the other side of the glass from mine....... I could see the wrinkles in his fingers, the tough leathery skin, his black fingernails, I was so amazed, I broke out in a sweat. This was the most unreal moment of my life. I could not believe what I was seeing. I then slowly put my palm against the window to see what his reaction would be. It was then I noticed he was no longer looking away. As I looked at him - I noticed something - and it broke my heart and this was no longer fun.

He was sad. I could see it in his eyes.

He stared at my hand and looked in my eyes and I could tell he was sad. He sat there with his finger which became more finger tips pressed on the glass where my hand was. This was very upsetting to me. I didn’t see the fire - that look of power and strength. He then began to look out toward the other gorillas, then back to me.

Do animals get sad?

Do they know this is not where they belong, when they are in a Zoo? If your answer is "an animal has no way of knowing they are not in their natural habitat" - tell me how you know that? How does anyone know the answer to that question?

I then decided it was time for me to go.

I had seen enough. I know what I saw was not in my mind, as I could hear other people behind me saying, "Look how sad he is," and gasping as he kept his fingertips pressed on the glass. I am not an animal rights activist and I’m pretty sure if I had climbed into that exhibit - that animal that had touched my heart, could have done some serious damage to me. This was an experience I had never had before, I never looked at an animal and thought about how they might feel about where they are, or how humans have affected their lives.

Would a Bigfoot end up on display in a zoo?

If documented, I’m sure someone will try, in the name of Science to try and help the species survive. Is that the best thing for this animal we all seek?? I cannot say it is. I think as researchers we should do whatever we can to help document this animal - in its natural habitat - and leave it there. I will not go along with the idea that the best way to help it, is to capture one and put it in a zoo, and show it to the world for the price of admission. I think Jane Goodall is doing fine with her research in the wilds of Africa.

We as human beings can and do change the behavior of animals -- regardless of what we do.

But, why make it any worse? Yes, having Gorillas on exhibit in Zoos around the world has helped in educating the masses about them. I do think there is a better way though - and I think it’s exactly what has been done by Jane Goodall and the late Diane Fossey - study these animals in their natural habitat.

I think we as researchers have a decision to make.

If I were to get this animal on film - and it was good enough to prove the existence, would I show it to the world? Yes. Would I tell anyone where to find the animal (if I knew) maybe a general area, but I would not put out enough information that would give someone the ability to find this animal and kill it - or capture it for study. Will this opinion make me, "Popular," I can’t say it will. But, I will not be party to putting this animal on display, or seeing it killed in the "interest of science".

If hard work, dedication, getting dirty and exposing yourself, to a bit of danger is good enough for Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey it’s good enough for me.

I have asked this question that has been weighing heavily on my mind,to some of the other researchers, I have profiled on this blog. I will be publishing their responses as time goes on. :)

4 Comments:

  • At 7:51 PM, Blogger Sedgeridge said…

    testing to see if I have done what I need to do correctly in order to post a message..
    Sedgeridge

     
  • At 7:55 PM, Blogger Sedgeridge said…

    Well, now that I see that I have registered correctly, I'd like to say - Great Article!
    Thanks for sharing your experience and resulting thoughts.

    I must admit that I have vacilated a little on this subject.
    My own thoughts after reading your article have gone toward the idea of hoping that Sasquatch remains elusive from the realm of scientific catagorizing and the resulting consequences. Not just because I would not want to see one in a zoo display but also, once they become identified as a genuine flesh and blood living being their hunting season would begin on that very day and legal or not would never end.

    However I would like to take things to the next step.
    Take the position for just a few moments, even if it is not your current belief, that Sasquatch is just as described above. Add to that the idea that they have an intelligence that rivals our own but differ in that they have deliberately chosen not to be found and identified.

    Whereas we have excelled in technology and 'creature comforts', they have excelled in not just surviving in the wild but thriving. I, for one, would love to be able to walk into the wilderness knowing that I was very capable of living my life in the manner that they must be living.

    I'm not so sure that they need our protection and their very elusiveness may be interpreted as proof of that.

    In almost all cases of direct contact it can be said that the contact has been initiated from the Sasquatch. Of course accidental contacts have occured as well as their choosing to come close enough to members of our society to carry on brief times of gift exchanges with occasional sightings.

    I can even imagine that they tell thier children to stay away from those little hairless people who run around in different colored wrapings because they will carry you away and you will never be seen again.

    One enthusiast's idea of capturing a Sasquatch so that it can be studied for a short time then released to the wild again could very well do much more harm than the idea that we need a dead body to examine.

    Just think of the possible transmission of diseases to which they may not have any immunity much like what happened to Native Americans of yesteryear. Sasquatch senses may be honed to the point that they can sense this from our odor.

    I'm not saying that this is the case but let your imagination go a little in this direction. Give Sasquatch a little credit for having the ability to have gone uncaptured for so long. Perhaps it is by their design that we do not find a body or bones. Their motto may well be "We shall leave no Bigfoot behind".

     
  • At 8:52 PM, Blogger Melissa said…

    I would like to thank you for that very thought provoking comment.

    Im glad you enjoyed the article, I will be posting the responses I received from other Researchers when I asked them this very question - you might like the responses.

    Thanks you :)

     
  • At 1:13 PM, Blogger Bel Air Bob said…

    I have seen gorillas in captivity and also thought they looked sad. Even if born in captivity, they can certainly see that there are humans walking around coming and going and there is a world beyond their reach. I for one, as much as I would find it facinating to look at up close, do not want to see a sasquatch held in any zoo. Once they are recognized as a species, they will still be facinating, with a great deal of mystery surrounding their habits, lifestyle, migration, etc. Putting them in a zoo would only serve our curiosity and do nothing to help protect the species.

     

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