They said Bokito the silverback gorilla is in love.
In a gorilla troop, a “silverback” is named for the distinctive patch of silver hair on the adult male gorilla’s back, which comes with maturity. The silverback’s dominating power comes from its superior masculinity and controls the allocation of resources, especially food and copulation.
Bokito is a western gorilla born 1996 in Berlin; he grew up in captivity to a 180 centimeters tall silverback that weighed more than 180 kilograms. Even having been raised by human beings, his domineering nature still lives in his genes. His earliest record of escaping from his enclosure was in Zoo Berlin when he was 10.
One day in May 2007, after he moved to Rotterdam Zoo in Holland, he jumped over the four-meter high fence and fiercely attacked a lady who was affectionately smiling at him; she was bitten, bashed, slammed onto the ground and dragged for couple dozen meters. All other visitors fled to the zoo restaurant for shelter, yet, Bokito didn’t hold back, he smashed the restaurant door and ran inside to continue the sabotaging until the zoo staff arrived to stabilize the animal with tranquilizer guns. The lady was sent to the hospital with multiple bone fractures and more than 100 cuts and scrapes over her body. But luckily, she lives.
The injured lady had been visiting Bokito frequently, on average four times per week since one and half year ago when he moved in to Rotterdam Zoo. Every time she visited, she had stared lovingly at Bokito in his eyes. The keepers had advised her not to do so, but she didn’t believe it. After the incident, in an interview, she once claimed, “I smiled at him, and he would smile at me. There was a connection between us.”
Some TV talk show guests said that Bokito must have fell in love, and that was why he got furious about not being able to possess this woman who dared to look at him in the eye. They said Bokito does not know how to express his love in a polite way, nor to control his strength and temper, and he didn’t have to, anyways, because he’s a silverback, that’s it.
“Not possible.” The zoo director says, “Because the silverbacks just don’t do this love thing.” A silverback doesn’t fall in love, he occupies and dominates, and he always needs more than one wife. At that time Bokito already had two wives, he wouldn’t mind, if available, having a third one. …
Excerpt from the chapter “Bokito: A Silverback Gorilla in Love”
The Grand Zoo was Written and photographed by M. Nadia Ho