In 1996, Binti the gorilla protected a 3-year-old boy from harm who fell into the gorilla enclosure. She tended to the boy as she was taught by animal trainers to tend after her own child. Just like the gorilla Harambe, who was recently shot at the Cincinnati Zoo, Binti was raised in captivity. But Binti’s upbringing tells how she was particularly close with, and spoiled by, her human trainers.
The problem with most wild animals is that they are unpredictable. Seeing Harambe, a huge male gorilla standing over a child, is probably what made the zoo staff pick up their guns. Nobody was sure what Harambe was doing. In the case of Binti, she clutched the boy as if carrying a child.
Another reason Binti didn’t suffer the same fate as Harambe could be Binti’s training. The problem is that when gorillas are trained to be too tame and friendly to humans, they are at a disadvantage in the wild. But if they exhibit wild behavior while in captivity, they could meet Harambe’s fate in those rare cases of such incidents.
Both Binti and Harambe are critically endangered western lowland gorillas. These species of gorilla are the ones most often found in zoos. All gorillas are endangered due to poaching, the spread of Ebola, and habitat destruction. They are also killed for their meat.