The gorilla didn’t know what to do. After all, he had been on his own for such a long time that now, in this strange place surrounded by so many others like him, he had no clue about how to behave. How would the other animals react? Would they hurt him? Fortunately for him, however, he was in for something very special.
This story begins, however, in Cameroon, West Africa. Here, it’s apparently considered a sign of wealth to serve and eat what is sadly an endangered animal. Indeed, in Cameroon the illegal poaching of bushmeat – like that of primates – from the forests is reportedly thriving.
What’s more, if younger animals are “lucky” enough to survive a poacher’s initial attack, they are still in for a torrid time. In fact, they could be taken and sold into the likewise-illegal exotic pet trade. This was certainly the case for one poor baby gorilla named Parry.
After Parry’s parents were killed, he was thrust into a world totally unsuited for a wild gorilla. Indeed, a private owner kept Parry as a pet. Inevitably, though, Parry literally outgrew his welcome, and the owner left the young ape to fend for himself.
This is not an uncommon scenario. “[Gorilla] youngsters grow fast and become unmanageable as early as [four or five] years old. Owners sometimes release them into the forest to avoid facing criminal charges if they relinquish the animal to authorities,” the animal welfare group Ape Action Africa explained on its Facebook page.
Luckily, Parry was later spotted searching for food in a mango tree in Eastern Cameroon. Villagers here noted that Parry wasn’t shy around humans and, indeed, seemed to seek out attention. The locals knew, though, that this behavior would lead him into trouble, so they alerted the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife.
After all, Cameroon’s bushmeat trade would have no problem taking out an ape that wasn’t wary of human contact. Fortunately for Parry, then, the wildlife authorities knew somewhere that he could be safe.
In early June 2016, the Mefou Primate Sanctuary offered Parry the best chance to live a safe and more natural life among his own kind. The sanctuary is a refuge for apes who have experienced this kind of life, and it is run by Ape Action Africa.
Incidentally, Ape Action Africa is an expansion of the Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund, which cemented itself as an official charity in 1996. It has the resources to offer veterinary aid to gorillas and chimpanzees. Plus, once the primates recover from their injuries, the charity releases them into safe and controlled environments within the sanctuary.
This was the plan with Parry. Initially, he had to be placed in quarantine to make sure that he was fit enough to join the others. He also had to be screened for any potential illness or diseases that could be infectious to the other gorillas.
The charity shared the findings of Parry’s health check on social media. “The results were very positive. His x-ray showed bullet fragments in his left upper arm, confirming our suspicions that Parry’s mother was shot and killed for meat and he was then sold or kept as a pet,” it wrote.
The post continued, “Despite the visual and physical barrier from the chimps next door, quiet Parry has struggled with his rambunctious neighbors. He has found great comfort though in our nearby gorilla group.”
It added, “Whilst he only has visual contact with Chickaboo, Luci and Chris, his Caregivers noticed early on that Parry became anxious when they moved out of sight to play in their forest enclosure for the day.” Indeed, Parry took a keen interest in the gorilla family’s interactions, and he even tried to join in.
Heartwarmingly, Parry took a particular liking to little Chris, another gorilla youngster who had built up a good relationship with the family group. In fact, Parry would try to interact with Chris even while he was in quarantine.
“It’s fantastic to see how much interest they have taken in each other already and even from a distance, Parry has offered play gestures to little Chris,” the sanctuary wrote on Facebook. “Gorilla introductions can sometimes be long and challenging, but we hope that this one will be a great success.”
The way that gorillas communicate is interesting. An extended family of gorillas living together is called a “troop,” and they usually have one dominant male who calls the shots. In the dense jungle, then, the troop have a number of ways to converse.
Indeed, humans have identified roughly 25 different types of gorilla vocalizations, each with a different meaning. Additionally, gorillas have a wide range of gestures and facial expressions. Parry, however, didn’t have the usual social education of a wild gorilla, so the sanctuary staff were nervous to see how he’d fare alongside others.
Nevertheless, when Parry was introduced to Chris, the two went – ahem – bananas. Indeed, Parry hit it off with Chris like they were old friends, and the young pair instantly started playing and wrestling.
And, fortunately for Parry, the fun is far from over. In fact, he’s next scheduled to meet with the females of the troop. So while he lived the first part of his life alone, Parry’s family is set to grow from here on out.
Ape Action Africa promised, “We can never replace the family that Parry has lost, but have made a lifelong commitment to providing him with friendship and happiness amongst our other gorilla orphans.”