Careless child falls into a gorilla enclosure – huge male gorilla's reaction went viral
Everyone feared the worst when this little one lay motionless after collapsing from 20 feet high in the pit of the great apes. But one of them, the greatest one, turned out to be his guardian angel.
The story of Levan Merrit happened 30 years ago, but it still impresses everyone. That day of 1986, 5-year-old Levan accidentally fell into the gorilla area of the Jersey Zoo, and while unconscious, was protected from the other monkeys by Jambo, a huge silverback who led the pack.
Something very strange at that time, when there were no smartphones, no internet, and no social networks; the incident was filmed by a visitor named Brian Le Lion, with a Sony CCD-V8 camera, which at that time cost 1,300 pounds.
The next day, not instantaneously as it happens today, the tape was broadcast by the television news and became "viral", because the news went around the world and monopolized the headlines of the main newspapers.
Thirty years later, Levan shared with Daily Mail the memories of that fateful day that, he confessed, has marked him for life and has forged a strong relationship with the Jersey Zoo and a great love for animals including, of course, the Gorillas. Read more on our Twitter account @amomama_usa
Merrit saw the images for the first time on TV, when he was lying in his hospital bed, where he spent six weeks recovering from the fractures of his skull and arm that he suffered in the spectacular fall.
I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT
"That was the first time I saw him and, to be honest, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing," Levan told the Daily Mail.
In the footage, you can see what happened after Merrit fell into the pit of the largest primates on the planet when he visited with his family the Jersey Zoo.
As he lay motionless on the ground, a 7ft tall 18 stone silverback male, called Jambo, approached him slowly. The Merritts and a crowd of onlookers watched in horror, but Jambo reached out and gently stroked Levan's back. The gorilla cared for Levan while he was unconscious, placing himself between the boy and the other apes in a protective gesture.
After an interminable minute, Levan began to regain consciousness and began to move and cry, but his family shouted at him to stay still because the apes could be scared and did not know how they would react.
However, the fear and pain more and his sobs made the gorillas retreat in panic and Jambo led them to the house of the corral, allowing a paramedic and two caretakers to enter and rescue Levan in a dramatic escape.
The incident, which took place on August 30, 1986, had a profound impact on his life, from the development of a permanent relationship with the Jersey Zoo to dealing with bullies at school that annoyed him with ridicule names like 'Tarzan' and 'Gorilla boy’.
JAMBO BROKE PARADIGMS
In 1990, Jambo's protective attitude with Levan inspired a television documentary entitled 'The Urban Gorilla', in which filmmaker Allison Argo explores the lives of gorillas in the urban environment.
The film starts with the dramatic images of the incident that occurred at the Jersey Zoo, which you can see below:
Argo, who produced, wrote and directed the award-winning film, toured from West Africa to the Netherlands and Washington State in the USA, where Ivan, a single silver-back bachelor, lived in a shopping center.
The film, which was broadcast in 1991 by National Geographic Explorer, weaves a story of hope and respect for these magnificent animals and denies the reputation of violent wrongly adjudicated in fiction films.
Levan said he was "proud" to have helped with his accident to change the public perception of the gorillas as dangerous beasts, and to show them for what they are, adorable gentile giants.
This new image has been possible not only thanks to Jambo and the production of Argo but later it has been corroborated with other tender images captured in jungles and refuges.
One of them is the video of a huge silver-back named 'Bobo', which was captured while playing with a small monkey in an ape sanctuary in Africa.
The gorilla surprised everyone with his tenderness. He played for more than 2 hours with a monkey no bigger than the palm of his hand and then let him go.