Pictured here are my son and a silverback gorilla at the Philadelphia Zoo. As the gorilla approached the observatory window, my son nervously began to chew on his finger. The gorilla slowly, gently walked up to the window and mimicked–dare I say, empathized with–my little guy.
“No one who looks into a gorilla’s eyes — intelligent, gentle, vulnerable — can remain unchanged, for the gap between ape and human vanishes; we know that the gorilla still lives within us. Do gorillas also recognize this ancient connection?”
George B. Schaller, “Gentle Gorillas, Turbulent Times,” National Geographic, Vol. 188, No. 4 (October 1995), p. 66.
I’ll speak for myself when I admit that I didn’t learn until later in life that humans did not evolve from gorillas. Scientists tell us that as primates, we took different paths about 10 millions years ago. Gorillas in the Congo were poached for years but the situation changed a bit when it was realized that at one time gorilla viewing by tourists was Rwanda’s third- largest earner of foreign currency. Unfortunately, civil unrest fosters a shaky future for gorillas. Mountain gorillas are still killed. Silverbacks, the dominant males in a gorilla family, are so protective of their young that they will defend them to the death. Poachers who hunt baby gorillas often wipe out whole families in the process.
Enter iGorilla, an effort to help the 211 great apes living in the Virunga National Park, which is situated in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda (totaling 3,000 square miles). I recently learned about this new iPhone app through a post on the Science For Citizens Facebook fan page. (If you haven’t joined the fan page, I encourage you to do so. Very active group there!) One of our team members posted news of iGorilla, which lets you “adopt” and follow one of four mountain gorilla families in the park. Most of the four dollars you pay for the app goes to support the gorillas and the park.
From the BBC News article, announcing the release of the iGorilla:
“The new app, launched by the Virunga National Park, allows users to choose a gorilla family, find out about individual members and follow their lives through reports, photographs and videos.”
I hope iGorilla’s photos of your “adopted family” spark something within you as the photo above did for me. Have a great weekend.