Scientists say that gorillas share somewhere around 95 percent of their DNA with humans, but you don't have to hold a PhD to see that what we have in common extends far beyond genetics alone. Last Sunday, two male gorillas on display at the Kansas City Zoo escaped their enclosure, prompting the facility and its 1,800 guests to enter lockdown mode -- though the 'red alert' proved hardly necessary. As it turns out, the gorilla's cage-break wasn't spurred by any malice towards their captures. No. The precocious pair were just hoping to meet some gorilla gals.
For a few brief hours, Mbundi and his half-brother Ntondo, two teenage western lowland gorillas, enjoyed a taste of relative freedom after a zoo employee forgot to secure the lock on their enclosure. After the animals' keepers realized that the pair had escaped, visitors were rounded up and made to hunker down behind security barriers as zoo officials assessed the situation involving two 400-pound primate escapees.
According to the Kansas City Star, authorities readied tranquilizers darts in the event that Mbundi or Ntondo were out for blood -- though it soon became clear that they were instead out for love.
Apparently, the two presumably hormonal gorillas had been kept segregated from the zoo's female gorillas, and the whole escape gave them a chance to strut their stuff. Officials say that, during the youthful pair's forbidden quest for romance, the public was never put in danger -- unless, of course, someone in the crowd was allergic to awkward primate come-ons.
"They were posturing for the females,” reports Julie Neemeyer, director of marketing for the Kansas City Zoo. “They were doing what male gorillas do.”
The gorillas' commitment to impress those potential mates was so strong that not even the promise of candy being offered by their keepers could lure them away. Ultimately, zoo officials resorted to spraying the amorous pair with cold water to force them back into their enclosures.
In the wild, western lowland gorillas like Mbundi or Ntondo are among the most critically endangered primates on the planet. Native to central Africa, the long-term survival of the species has been hobbled by human threats such as poaching and deforestation -- though a stubbornly low reproduction rare further exacerbates their decline.
It is not without a sense of sad irony then that the highly-motivated, romantic pursuits of two captive lowland gorillas would be so rudely squelched by humans, when it is in fact that same spirit that's needed to boost their numbers. As was admitted by the zoo, the animals were simply doing what comes naturally for them (and us too for that matter) -- perhaps it's time we let them.