A video clip has emerged online showing the moment that a gorilla at the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky, named Jelani, became engrossed in looking at photos of gorillas on an iPhone.
As the young man sitting on the other side of the safety glass at the zoo scrolls through a series of gorilla “selfies” on his iPhone and shows them to Jelani, the gorilla shows remarkably humanlike interest and absorption in looking at the iPhone images, despite distracting activity around him.
The gorilla stares with rapt attention at a photo and — according to the video uploader in his description — once he has observed the image to his satisfaction, he motions with his hands for the next photo and looks away briefly while the young man scrolls to a new image. The gorilla then looks back and fixes his gaze attentively on the screen with evident fascination.
At a point, the gorilla moves to a position beside the man, where he can lean against the wall and peep over his shoulders to enjoy the photos.
The video showing one of our closest relatives in the animal world displaying humanlike interest in viewing colorful images of his kind on the screen of an iPhone reveals that they share some of the core aspects of our constitutional make-up underlying our tendency to become obsessed with the photographic and videographic functions of our technological gadgets.
The person shooting the video asks to see what photos the young man with the iPhone was sharing with the gorilla. The young man turns the screen of the phone to the cameraman, and we see for the first time that he was showing Jelani gorilla “selfies.”
“I stumbled upon the boy sharing pictures with Jelani touring the zoo with my one-year-old daughter.
“The boy was scrolling through gorilla pictures, and Jelani would motion with his hand to move to the next photo. Both seemed to really enjoy sharing the experience.”
He then turns the screen of the phone back to the gorilla, who continues to stare at the photos within unwavering interest, tilting his head occasionally to focus better on the images.
The video, posted online by YouTube user Paul Ross on September 6, 2015, has gone viral, with many expressing amazement at Jelani’s humanlike interest in looking at photos of other gorillas. Some have even asked why Facebook hasn’t allowed gorillas to open personal profiles on the social website.
“What a beautiful intelligent animal.”
“Someone please get that gorilla an xbox kinect or something!”
“That’s just so moving. BTW, the enclosure is actually four acres in size where they can move around in the open and the glass enclosure is just a small part of it.”
However, as expected, animal lovers used the opportunity to express disapproval of keeping animals in captivity at zoos.
“At least he’s getting some interaction, it must be lonely for him being stuck behind plate glass all day, I know I would go stir crazy.”
“What wonderful pictures. But all creatures should not be locked up in small cages just to amuse us.”
“Zoo and circus = enslavement of animals for entertainment of some ignorant human beings!”
But we would be less surprised by Jelani’s behavior when we learn that the DNA of gorillas (family Hominidae) is very similar to that of humans. Gorillas are considered our closest relatives in the animal world after chimpanzees and bonobos, sharing about 95-99 percent of our DNA.
[Image: Jukin Media via YouTube/Paul Ross]