Staff Didn’t Know What Gorilla Was Holding, Until They Got Closer

Lisa am 13. October 2021
According to the World Wildlife Foundation, gorillas share 98.3 percent of their DNA with humans. This means they are able to exhibit human traits such as high-level intelligence and deep emotions.

Bobo, the giant gorilla, was one of the most friendly gorillas in his sanctuary, until one day he started acting strangely. He started behaving suspiciously and seemed emotionally detached from others. These changes started at almost the same time Bobo started hiding a secret item in his paws.

Keep reading to find out what happened to the orphaned gorilla!
The caregivers, who were understandably worried, believed that finding out the item Bobo was hiding could be the key to figuring what was wrong with him. To achieve that they had carried out detailed surveillance of the ape - but from a safe distance. Everyone was utterly amazed, to say the least when they finally found out what he was doing.

That was the very first time in their years of experience that they witnessed an ape do something like this - Read on to find out what Bobo was hiding...

Soon, we’ll meet the special abandoned gorilla.
Meet Bobo the Gorilla!
Bobo is an African male gorilla, one of the many in Mefou Primate Sanctuary located in the West African nation of Cameroon. Bobo was orphaned when poachers attacked and killed his mother when he was only two years old. This incident hurt him psychologically and made him less sociable in the first few months after he arrived at the sanctuary.

But now Bobo has fully grown into an adult ape and has risen through the ranks to become the most dominant ape around. Now he was the kind of ape that poachers should be scared of.
Not an Angry Gorilla
Unlike most of his peers, this 350-pound gorilla was a darling. He was not as aggressive as others and did not give the caregivers a hard time.

With time, Bobo did not only earn the other ape's respect but also the crown. To do so, as he had to put a good fight with the alpha ape at some time and he won't vacate the throne without a good fight either. That's just how animal politics work.
Monopoly
"Younger males Kibu and Nkamum once challenged Bobo for his position. They were never successful and no longer attempt to take control," says Elissa one of Bobo's favorite caregivers since his first day at the sanctuary.

But Bobo had started displaying behavior that wasn't consistent with his position as the alpha ape in the sanctuary. What was going wrong?
Something Smells Fishy
The Mefou Primate Sanctuary in Cameroon is run by the UK-based charity Ape Action Africa. Their mission encompasses refuging endangered apes among other things. This is highlighted by Mefou Sanctuary in housing 300 gorillas, monkeys, and chimpanzees.

After noticing abrupt changes in Bobos' behavior, Elissa knew she had to be on red alert and watch the big ape closely making sure he wasn't posing a threat to himself, other apes, and the caregivers.
A Suspicious Change in Behavior
This previously happy, gregarious, sociable ape was suddenly behaving strangely. He was detached, avoided the company of other apes, and kept lurking and hiding under overgrown foliage.

At first, Elissa was puzzled, unable to quite put a finger around the reason the big ape was hiding. But with time, it became clear to her, that Bobo wasn't just hiding but rather he was hiding something in the foliage. Something he didn't want the staff and apes to know of.
A Dire Diagnosis
With years of experience at the primate sanctuary, the staff acknowledges the apes under their care have typically experienced some sort of emotional trauma that brought them there. As such, they tailor their care of different apes accordingly.

Furthermore, when a primate of the size and political standing, like Bobo, is acting weird, it is best that they find out what is going on sooner than later.
Endangered
Poaching and deforestation are fairly commonplace in Cameroon. Both of which significantly affect the livelihood of primates. Consequently, Ape Action Africa established the Mefou Primate Sanctuary.

The caregivers had taken oaths to do everything possible to make sure these primates got the best care available and were protected from harm - and they meant it.
Bobo Was Under 24-hour Surveillance
Mefou Primate Care specialized in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (amongst other specialties), which is quite handy as most animals that arrived there had suffered some sort of trauma.

Secretly monitoring the big ape closely wasn't going to be easy, but Elissa was determined and followed the ape around the enclosure. She was particularly curious to know what the primate was holding in its hand.
The Search Begins
After a while, it looked like the ape had dropped its secret item in a grassy area, so Elissa waited for Bobo to vacate the area, and when he finally did, Elissa headed to that spot in search of answers.

Elissa searched the whole area but didn't see anything strange. It was later that afternoon that she discovered that Bobo never hid the item but had carried it along with him all this time.
The Shocking Discovery
Bobo, the once-friendly ape, had changed drastically. He kept avoiding Elissa, which made it even harder for her to find out what the ape was hiding.

Eventually, she got close enough to see this secret item the ape was holding. She was shocked when she discovered that the ape wasn't just holding any item - it was a living thing!
A Little Creature Was Within His Grip
As soon as Bobo realized he was being watched he took off, as usual, and headed into the overgrown foliage. The group followed cautiously.

However, the living thing the big ape carried had started crying, but Elissa was too far off to identify the little creature in the ape's hand. She needed to come close enough to identify the little creature the ape was carrying. She needed a plan.
A Fellow Primate
At first, the animal looked like a rodent from afar. But the way the seeming rodent was comfortable in the gorilla's paws heightened Elissas' curiosity.

This was quite strange, considering that a rodent would be most likely attempt to escape an ape by then. Perhaps the rodent was wounded, she reasoned. Elissa used a pair of binoculars to try and identify the little animal, it was then that she discovered that the ape wasn't playing with a rodent.
Fatherly Love
For a sanctuary the size of Mefou, with a lot of apes under its care, one may consider it commonplace to lose track of one or more primates every once in a while. But that is not the narrative at Mefou, which is because their staff is keen on delivering the best individualized care to every primate in the enclosure.

That begs the question: Where did Bobo's little primate friend come from?
The Lost Traveller
The primate in question was a galago. The staff at Mefou concluded that the creature must have entered the sanctuary from the surrounding forest.

The galago is commonly known as a bushbaby because of the crying sound they make that mimics that of a human baby. The bushbaby wasn't the usual kind of primate the sanctuary looked after. Nonetheless, the big ape took care of the new primate like it was his own, but the staff wasn't willing to delegate that responsibility to Bobo.
The Courageous Little One
The little guy showed that he felt very comfortable around the giant ape. Elissa described their relationship by saying, The bushbaby showed no fear of Bobo, moving around his body and spending time hopping around in an open grassy area before choosing to return to Bobo.

The special care the galago was receiving from the giant ape wasn't the only thing that surprised Elissa, the very fact that she was looking at a galago was enough of a surprise already. That's because galagoes are very rare creatures.
Bush Babies, the Night Monkey
Elissa further explains that bushbabies are normally nocturnal, so it is rare to see these animals let alone witness such a unique ape-galago relationship.

Galagos mostly sleep during the day and hunt at night. That being said, you can understand Elissa better when she said that one of the most fascinating things she has seen is an ape breaking bread with a galago. What an extraordinary occurrence!
An Uncommon Friendship
Elisa continued, "Wild primates and rescued ones seldom interact with each other like this. They're either at a sanctuary or they're in the jungle. We have never witnessed a wild primate interacting with a rescued one."

The placement of Mefous sanctuary in a forest made the interaction of apes with other wildlings very rare. That's why this discovery was even more shocking.
The Newest Addition to the Sanctuary
"The little bushbaby was happy to play in Bobo's arms, hopping off to explore the grass nearby, before returning to Bobo's hand," Elissa explained.

Soon enough, the other apes in the group discovered what was preoccupying Bobo. The little wilding turned into a center of attraction for the other apes as they tried to get closer for a better look.
Keep Off!
"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, Bobos' mates were desperately curious, but he kept them all at a distance, making sure no one disturbed his new friend.

Bobo, in an attempt to help his new friend escape this disturbance from others, tried to help the bushbaby return to his natural habitat by lifting him up to a branch above the sanctuary. A member of the staff captured this thrilling experience on camera and this was later posted on social media.
Posted on Facebook
They posted this breath-taking video on Facebook, with a caption that read: "Our silverback gorilla Bobo made a surprising new friend this week - a wild bushbaby!

Caregivers discovered him cradling the tiny primate during their morning checks, and were amazed to see him handling it with the utmost care."
Social Media Reactions
The video went viral almost immediately. It garnered more than 2,000 comments and over 1.7 million views in a short while. A lot of people from all over the world were deeply touched by the heartwarming, soul-searching relationship between Bobo and his little, newfound friend.

A lot of people commended Bobo's attitude towards this tiny fellow and agreed that we all could learn a thing or two from the ape's display of character.
Empathy Among Different Species
One user by the name wrote, "These gorillas have a very nurturing and empathic nature, the human race could learn from these beautiful, thoughtful animals."

"Exactly why I love gorillas... because they're amazingly gentle giants who are extremely intelligent animals," another commented. These comments highlight the need for endangered species to be protected.
The Dangers Wildlife Face
Sadly, these apes are greatly endangered throughout the Congo basin where poaching and massive deforestation are status quo.

Broadly speaking, there are two main species of gorillas – the western gorilla and the eastern gorilla. The western gorilla is divided into two subspecies namely, the western lowland gorilla and the cross river gorilla, while the eastern gorilla is also divided into two subspecies, the eastern lowland gorilla and the mountain gorilla.
Highly Intelligent Creatures
Gorillas are highly intelligent creatures. Wild gorillas have shown their intelligence in different areas like construction; where they have seen making ladders to help baby gorillas climb. And they are also skilled communicators; gorillas have been recorded making about 25 different sounds.

Gorillas have been seen using sticks for gauging the depth of water and eating ants with sticks while avoiding getting stung. So smart!
An Evolutionary Cousin
According to scientists, humans and gorillas have about 98.3% similarities in genetic material. This figure places them as one of our closest relatives, evolutionally speaking, after chimpanzees and bonobos.

But sadly, gorillas are among the most endangered animals in the world. Animal Charity organizations in Cameroon are working to change that narrative. But the sanctuary has immense need of a huge, steady flow of funds to provide care for these primates. For now, they rely on volunteers, student zoologists, and public donations.
From Scratch
Ape Action Africa was formed in 1996, it started as a UK charity called CWAF [Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund]. The charity's initial aim was to create better living conditions for primates housed at Mvog-Betsi Zoo in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

In the course of its 12-year operation, the CWAF expanded its operations to providing sanctuary for orphaned primates of poaching, like Bobo.
Work In Progress
Ape Action Africa is home to over 300 primates making it one of the largest primate conservation projects in Africa.

In the sanctuary, there is a good number of gorilla groups, and one of the predominant ones is Bobo's group which includes two black backs, Kibu and Nkamum, three females gorillas; Jasmine, Geri, and Avishag, and her baby Eto-fils, and of course their boss, the silverback, Bobo.
Enlightening the Public
Bobo's limelight from his internet fame has helped shed more on about the plight of these animals and the amount of work these charity groups put in to alleviate these primate's burden.

The main challenges these animals face are poaching practices and habitat loss due to increasing industrialization. The 20 million hectares of tropical rainforest Cameroon once boasted of having is continuously depleting.
Is There Hope?
Though primates are still on the endangered species list, there is still hope for them provided appropriate measures are put in place.

Sir David Attenborough, who has been to Cameroon said, "It is incredibly heartening to see how the efforts of so many different groups – communities, governments, NGOs – have paid off. The threats to mountain gorillas haven't disappeared entirely, of course, so now the challenge must be to ensure that these achievements are sustained long into the future."