Recently my zookeeper friend, Judy, asked me to come have lunch with gorillas
and I was hard pressed to remember the last time I had received an invitation like this and I immediately cleared my
calendar and RSVP'd affirmatively.
very anxious to be able to be up close with our primitive cousins. Mind you I had seen them from behind the
safety glass at their public exhibit at the zoo but being able to see these creatures so
close behind the scenes was an anticipated thrill.
On Sunday after stepping through a disinfectant bath I walked into the keepers' work area next to cages with great metal bars. I was given a lovely lunch of baked potato with many toppings but no spoon. It was served gorilla style which fortunately I was able to do and it was delicious. I spent some time talking with keepers and dedicated zoo volunteers who were busy making enrichment items for the gorillas (holes drilled into sticks and then filled with raisins and other treasures).
After lunch I was asked if I wanted to hang around to help feed the gorillias. Need they ask? I was instructed to washed my hands which I did with the skill of surgeon making sure I would
not contaminate any gorilla food I touched. I was then was ushered into the gorilla sleeping
quarters, behind bars, to first meet the female, Amanda. Judy had a bucket filled with
bananas, carrots, celery and other greens which she placed in a large feeding container.
Judy told me not to make eye contact with these creatures and
I have to tell you it was all I could do not to stare them in the eye. I had to act like having lunch
with gorillas was no big deal.
Judy gave me a plastic pitcher filled with something which looked like
milk, but perhaps was laced with other liquid nutrients.
Amanda thumped her chest like a bongo drum and came over to
the bars where she pursed her lips and I gently poured the liquid into her
mouth. She gulped down her gorilla
smoothie and, having drunk her fill let out very loud purrs. I was half expecting her to also let
out a great belch of approval.
Judy handed me a large spoon and a container of mixed banana
and mango to help feed VIP, an imposing silver back. “If he takes the spoon just let it go,” my keeper friends advise. I sure wasn’t about ready to wrestle a 600-pound primate over the ownership of any utensil.
VIP was a true gentleman and accepted my spoon full of mango
and mashed banana with gentle grace, patiently waiting for me to round up another blob of sweet mesh for another lick.
I want to say that having lunch with these companions was a humbling experience and taught me to look even more closely at my natural world for true meaning.