Endangered Species Handbook

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Vanishing Species

Human Tragedy and the Looting of Virunga's Treasures: Page 9

     The fact that Gorillas are gentle, kind and intelligent beings makes these cruelties all the more horrific.  Millions of people saw a television report on August 16, 1996, showing Binty, a female Lowland Gorilla at a Midwestern US zoo, saving a little boy who had fallen into the exhibit and was lying unconscious; she picked him up and carried him gently to a door where keepers entered, setting him down in front of it.  People were overwhelmed by her act of good will, as well as by her quick reaction.  Many viewers had no idea that Gorillas would want to help a human in need, nor that she would use such good judgment in rescuing the boy, who recovered completely. 
 
     Koko, a captive Lowland Gorilla taught American Sign Language by Francine Patterson, president of the Gorilla Foundation, has learned some 800 signs and uses descriptive, imaginative language in naming unfamiliar objects, such as "finger-bracelet" for ring.  She also paints, and when asked what one of her more colorful creations (reproduced on page one of The New York Times) depicted, she signed "bird" (Boxer 1997).  We are only beginning to learn about these primates, but without strong protection, they may soon become extinct in the wild at the hands of humans.


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