It's been five years since conservationist Damian Aspinall has seen Kwibi, a lowland gorilla he helped raise in captivity before releasing him back into the wild. But when Aspinall decided to venture into the jungles of Gabon, Kwibi's new home, no one could have expected what would happen next. This clip, which aired earlier this month on the program Gorilla School, maybe one of the most moving encounters between primate and man ever caught on film--which only goes to show that despite our differences, we may have more in common than we ever imagined.The clip, which has been viewed over 500 thousand times since being posted on YouTube earlier this month, clearly strikes a chord in people--and for good reason. Like a similar reunions caught on film, such as the one in which Christian the lion reunites with the men who raised him, the emotions expressed on both sides are so palpable that for a moment whatever abstract line that separates the animal and human world is blurred.
As we've learned recently, primates in particular have been shown to express emotions such as sadness and grief in ways similar to us--but it comes as more of a shock that people are surprised when a study is done to confirm it. But perhaps because our society generally celebrates qualities such as compassion and empathy, equality and justice, it's become necessary to reserve these to ourselves by largely denying degree to which other species truly feel, despite however intelligent or genetically similar to us we've proven them to be.
But for folks like Damian Aspinall, who work closely with animals everyday, such intimate encounters happen all the time which leave little doubt that these species deserve protection. Right now, however, there are a little over 630 primate species, with more than 300 classified as threatened with extinction--some with, like the Cross River gorilla, number in the hundreds.
The fact is that Kwibi, the gorilla who so lovingly embraces the man who raised him, is not a fluke or an oddity--nor is the animal kingdom an entirely a cold or unfeeling place. Emotions, as we see, run strong in our primate cousins, and some animals can even harbor a bit of love for a human in world where no human dwells.
Perhaps the coldest, most unfeeling and emotionless place on Earth is not in depths of the wilderness, but in the human heart that would think it so.