Bif and Baf (their names have been changed to preserve the identity of the individuals) the two lowland Gorillas, were sitting in their night quarters, making their beds ready for the night ahead of them. The satisfied grunts and groans could be heard as he, Bif, the larger (male) of the two pinched her (baf the female`s) straw and used it for his own bit of the sleeping shelf. Baf worked un-perturbed ignoring the grumpy approach of Bif and she plonked herself down long before he had finished pulling and poking his much larger area of straw into an acceptable, to him, bed, an artisan to the end.
One of Biffs little tricks, and he had many, was to pretend to be asleep and then as an unsuspecting group of visitors came into their house he would jump with all his, very considerable strength, into the air and land vertically on the glass with all “four feet” landing at the same time. Now let me tell you 23 stone of gorilla makes one hell of a bang and the effect that it had, more than satisfied him as he climbed deliberately back onto his sleeping shelf, feigning sleep once again, and ready for the next unsuspecting visitors to appear. Visitors never hung about after they had been treated to a “Bifjump” as it had been called in the past.
I watched them through the “bullet proof glass” and wondered what would happen should one day it ever break, I left them to it while their keepers locked their quarters, and I headed home.
Sometime in the morning of the next day I was talking to a gardener standing on the lawn of the stately home that was the centre piece of the Zoo that I was associated with. We discussed the weather, the plants, and lack of visitors for that time of year etc and suddenly a commotion in the distance brought my attention to an elderly couple running towards the gate.
I guessed that they had missed, or were late for, their coach which was a normal situation, but no, as they ran past, they waved and shouted “Gorilla’s in the misto “ pant! Pant! “ never coming here again”!!!!!!! or something like that and suddenly it occurred to me that all may not be well with the Gorilla exhibit. We, the gardener and I ran to the gorilla house where Biffs head was poking out of the public area door with a what the fu*k have I done? look on his face. He saw us running towards him and shut the door quickly disappearing inside (just as well for us). I was soon to find out exactly what would happen if the glass broke. It had!!!!
I ran around to the back of the house and saw Baf calmly sitting on the sleeping shelf and Bif slowly making his way back into the cage over rather a lot of broken glass. He looked a bit shaky and downtrodden, but was without injury. They were let out into their outside enclosure and a little later in the day, the glass was replaced (the spare a special order sheet, had been in stock for ten years and never needed until this day) both Bif and Baf were checked over by the vet, being pronounced fit if not “weary of glass” for a while. We never did contact the elderly couple who were “Biffed”, so we guessed that they were fit too, having run at speed, all the way to the gate from the Gorilla house and beyond.
The day after the glass incident they seemed quite happy and so I chose the largest melon that I could find in the fruit shed and a bag of various fruit. I also slipped into their inner house a Basket ball that had been left behind by a family group, some days before, to give them something to play with. As they entered the inner enclosure Baf made a beeline direct for the fruit and the Basket ball Bif grabbed her as if to suggest caution, but then holding her in front of him as if she was a shield he allowed her to poke the ball whilst he too tried not too hard to do the same. He wasn’t happy and leaving Baff he climbed up onto the safety of the sleeping shelf with some of the fruit and commenced, quietly, to eat it with one eye firmly kept on what she was doing.
Baff then picked up the Basket ball and as it looked like a Mango or melon she decided to bite a lump out of it with her canines. Its texture surprised her and on the second bite she managed to make a small pin hole into it which started to hiss. Dropping the ball, she suddenly found herself lifted bodily off the ground and again being placed firmly in front of Biff, now sitting bolt upright on the shelf, to protect him from what ever it was making that noise. He gesticulated freely and groaned and pointed but still insisted that Baff stayed to protect him.
As if taking for ever the ball finally stopped hissing. Slowly the courage came back to Biff and he unceremoniously plopped her back on top of the ball, with much gesticulating with his shovel like hands, groaning to her to investigate further. He however still stayed up on the shelf. She took a second bite out of the now deflated ball and ripped it clean in half. (So much for my idea of them playing with it)
He winced and hollered that half was his (I think! not speaking much Gorilla!) she threw half up to him and he wasn’t very interested as it turned out to be inedible. She however pulled the horsehair liner out, placing the cover onto her head and sat there like a shop mannequin peering at herself in her reflection of the glass. As the courage really started to show itself in Biff he began to strut around the inner enclosure, with his chest out and his muscles (and he has some) pumped up keeping one eye on the now silent bits of basketball and the other, now ever present threat, the glass. What is a poor Macho Male Gorilla to do these days? It’s all too much.
The fruit soon disappeared and Biff soon forgot about the ball. Baff still sat there with her half of it on her head. They both now waited for the next team of visitors to enter. They had found that the “hat” was quite a diversion and while the visitors were making comments about “the little Gorilla” “Oh! look at her hat ahh! Isn’t she sweet.!” Bif could give an even better shock pouncing from behind!
Before I retired the gorillas had been re-housed in a new large splendid enclosure and sleeping quarters and since had become part of a very much larger regulated breeding group. Some six plus young Gorillas have been sired toward the ever important captive gene pool to prevent extinction of the species. Re-introduction is the next great problem, but it will come! God help those who find themselves living in the proximity of Biff- n- Baff and their amazing tricks! I would just love the opportunity!!.