Thursday, April 23, 2015

Lunch with Gorillas

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.

I was 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.    


  1. Of all the people lunching out that day, you were probably the only "civilian" whose dates were gorillas. Did VIP have any good pick-up lines?

    1. I have to say that VIP was a true gentelman although at one point I thought he said, "What are you doin' chica, for dinner tonight?"

  2. This makes my almond-butter-sandwich-while-reading-the-morning-paper lunch seem dull, indeed. I loved reading about this adventure. Thanks!

  3. You have given me a good hearty laugh for today. Thank you S.