It was pouring rain and the only people at the zoo were the animals, the animal keepers and one volunteer. Guess which one. I love the zoo in the rain because there are no humans and the gorillas are out in their habitat as long as there is no lightening or heavy wind.
A gorilla’s existence in captivity at a place like the Dallas zoo where they are treated with the immense love and respect they deserve, is relatively simple. They don’t have to worry about predators (in the wild, man is their only one, but he is a formidable one), they don’t have to forage for food or look for water, their habitat doesn’t change much and in inclement (a word I never heard until I moved to Dallas!) weather they go inside their temp controlled bedrooms, so they are always very comfortable.
When something different happens, such as a downpour, it’s very novel to them and they take full advantage. It’s party time!
I was alone in the cave, which is usually bustling with zoo guests, with only three layers of treated glass separating me from the four male gorillas who live together in a bachelor group. I was between one and five feet away from them.
All four of them were bipedal which you will see from time to time with gorillas but because of their huge upper bodies, which are tremendously densely muscular, they are usually knuckle walkers. For those of you who don’t know, bipedal means walking like we do, upright on two back legs. I got the distinct impression that because their feet were so muddy, they didn’t also want muddy knuckles. Later, I checked with a gorilla keeper and confirmed that was exactly right. They didn’t want muddy knuckles! It’s amazing what your intuition can teach you when you observe an animal for hours every week.
In the rain the gorillas were dancing, laughing (yes, gorillas laugh), sliding around in the mud, chasing each other and imitating the rain by banging on their heads with their hands, all in a bipedal position. It was astounding.
I watched the gorillas in awe for three hours frolicking in the rain. I would burst out laughing and in the next second be close to tears. I knew I was seeing something very few people will ever have the honor of seeing in their entire lives.