A video clip shows the terrifying moment that an angry male gorilla, a silverback, charges angrily at a little girl and cracks the glass to his enclosure by slamming his body against it.
The video of the incident, which happened on Thursday at a Nebraska zoo, has gone viral online.
The little girl, who was visiting Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo with her family on Thursday, unwittingly provoked the dominant silverback by beating her chest repeatedly. Although the girl and her family thought they were having fun from behind the safety of the glass pane protecting the enclosure, the gorilla interpreted the gesture as a challenge to his dominance.
Accepting the challenge from an unworthy opponent, the gorilla approaches, gathers momentum, and then puts his entire weight behind a powerful slam that cracks the glass.
The person shooting the video can be heard exclaiming “oh man!” as the gorilla slams against the pane.
The 13-second clip shows that at first, the gorilla ignored the chest beating gesture. He probably thought the challenger was not a serious contender. But when then girl continued beating her chest, he finally lost patience and launched an attack, hitting the glass so forcefully that it cracked.
Note also the gorilla standing nearer to the family in the foreground. The individual probably perceived no threat in a little girl’s chest beating.
The girl and her family fled in fear as the gorilla hit the glass.
The video has since gone viral online with more than 500,000 views.
Recalling the family’s experience on Reddit after uploading the video online, Bulldogg9279, also known as Bull Dogg on YouTube, described the moment as a “three inch piece of glass between life and death.”
He said, “Shortly before this we were telling the kids they could not break it. They will never believe us again. Sadly the one beating her chest really started crying. I came back a couple of minutes later, and the zoo keepers were telling people to stay away.”
[Note: The video below shows a separate incident of kids provoking a gorilla at a zoo.]
Needless to say, a gorilla, a silverback, is a formidable opponent to confront in physical combat. The average silverback weighs up to 190 kg (420 lbs) and stands upright at more than 150 cm (59 inches), compared with females that average about 100 kg (220 lb) and have a height of about 130 cm (51 inches).
But despite the display of fearsome defensive behavior in the video — defensive because the attack was provoked by a little girl’s “threatening” chest beating — silverbacks are shy and gentle giants. Incidents of fighting between silverbacks are very rare, but occasionally, after other means of avoiding physical combat break down, silverbacks will engage in a fierce fight to death.
The Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha runs a gorilla breeding program and maintains the world’s largest sperm bank for gorillas. In 1995, the zoo produced its first gorilla test tube baby, also the first in the world.
[images: YouTube/Bull Dogg]