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The Secret Object This Gorilla Carries Around Will Warm Your Heart

By: Riley Brown | Last updated: Dec 22, 2021

If you have ever met or taken care of a giant gorilla, you know that most of them are friendly and gentle. They are fun animals to be around. Bobo, the 27-year-old gorilla, was one of the friendliest gorillas in his sanctuary. He used to play with his caretakers and show off by making funny faces. However, this all started changing after Bobo began to hide a secret item in his hands.

Worried caretakers at the Mefou Primate Sanctuary realized that Bobo’s behavior was not normal, and they were concerned about his sudden shift. They observed him carefully in an effort to find out whether there was something wrong with him or not. Bobo’s caretakers had no idea he was about to give them quite a surprise! Read on to find out what happened.

Bobo Is a Western Lowland Gorilla

Bobo became an orphan when he lost his mother to a poacher when he was two years old. The incident of animal cruelty made him suffer psychologically and emotionally. Soon after, he was rescued by the organization and brought to Cameroon, West Africa, to live in the Mefou Primate Sanctuary—home to many orphaned gorillas.

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The baby gorilla was standoffish in the first few months after he arrived at the sanctuary. As he developed into an adult ape, Bobo became friendlier, but he also became a strong and imposing figure. The group that he dominates includes three females and three males. Although younger males once tried to overthrow him, they were not successful.

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A Gentle Giant

Many gorillas are aggressive, but this 350-pound giant was the favorite of the caregivers. He willingly participates in most activities and is not aggressive towards others. Bobo has always been a sweet darling who gives no one a hard time. However, some male gorillas wanted to dethrone him, so he had to fight for his leadership role.

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In order to be named king, Bobo had to prove himself worthy. After he fought hard and won, Bobo earned respect and acceptance of his authority. These are privileges he will not relinquish without a fair fight.

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A Fight for the Throne

Bobo was once challenged by two young males, Kibu and Nkamum. However, they were never successful in their attempt to take control, so the two no longer make any effort. Bobo’s caretaker, Elissa, witnessed all these fights. However, she says it’s clear that giant gorillas have a gentle side too.

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As the alpha ape in his sanctuary, Bobo was expected to maintain a professional demeanor at all times. However, he started displaying behaviors inconsistent with this position. His odd behavior led to concerns from visitors and care staff alike who wondered what was causing such a dramatic change.

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Something Isn’t Right

Ape Action Africa is a UK-based charity that runs the Mefou Primate Sanctuary in Cameroon. Since 1996, the organization has been rescuing gorillas and apes from illegal poaching and trafficking. The charity now houses 300 monkeys. Most of them were rescued just before they were sold on the black market.

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When Elissa noticed that Bobo was acting strangely, she knew he needed close monitoring of his behavior and mental state. She knew Bobo well, and when he started acting up, the caregiver knew something was not right. Elissa kept a vigilant watch, looking for anything that might harm Bobo or any other apes in the sanctuary.

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Hiding Something

The caregivers gave Bobo round-the-clock care. Despite their earlier fights, Bobo had a strong bond with his two young males, Kibu and Nkamun. However, as his behavior shifted, he began maintaining a greater distance from them. When Bobo started acting differently, the staff knew they had to investigate further.

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They had never seen him like this before and didn’t know what it meant. Elissa was as surprised as the apes were to see Bobo wanting to be alone. The staff couldn’t wait to come closer and find out what he held in his hands. Was he hoarding food, or was it something more sinister?

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Avoiding Company

Before, Bobo was a bright and amiable ape, but he was now avoiding the company of other apes and lurking under overgrown grass for no apparent reason. Everyone was clueless, including his group. What could be the problem?

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With time, it became clear that Bobo wasn’t just hiding. Instead, he was trying to keep something secret. It only took one glance at his hunched posture and furtive movements for Elissa to realize what this might be. The caregiver suspected that he was hiding some kind of valuable item.

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Finding the Answer

All of the staff at the sanctuary were well aware that these apes were traumatized. This is why they tailored care to different apes accordingly – they wanted these animals not only to survive but also to thrive! Bobo’s odd behavior made the staff wonder if he was reliving past trauma.

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The caregivers knew that if they handled the situation wrong, they could traumatize the ape even further. However, after observing him, the team knew that they needed to diagnose Bobo’s problem and help him return to being the dominant gorilla he was.

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Helping At-Risk Apes

Ape Africa Action opened Mefou Primate Sanctuary in 1999 as an alternative home for chimpanzees and apes who had been captured from their natural habitats for trade on the black market. The organization creates protected areas throughout Cameroon where apes could live freely but with support.

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All the caregivers in the sanctuary were devoted and passionate about saving these primates. It was clear to them that this work required love, kindness, and self-sacrifice. They swore that they’d do everything in their power to help the animals recover from past cruelty.

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Keeping an Eye on Bobo

Mefou Primate Care staff members are trained to deal with post-traumatic stress, among other specialties. The sanctuary ensures primates are comfortable at the refuge during their treatment process. They provide amenities such as food, water, a safe environment, and compassionate care.

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So, when Bobo was acting very suspiciously and seemed like he wanted to hide something from everyone, Elissa monitored him closely. She was determined to find out what Bobo held in his hand as he wandered through the enclosure – it looked like something important!

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Elissa’s First Move

After several hours of watching Bobo on the surveillance cameras, Elissa noticed the ape laying his secret item in a grassy area. She waited for Bobo to vacate the spot before heading over. When the time seemed right, Elissa went off to find the secret item.

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After hours of searching, Elissa gave up. She had found nothing in the grass. Later that afternoon, Elissa spotted  Bobo carrying his secret item again. In fact, he’d had it with him all this time! The caregiver had to think of a new approach to uncovering the secret.

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The Secret Item

Bobo quickly became more reclusive and started to avoid Elissa. He avoided her at all costs, making it even harder for her to get close enough to discover what he was hiding from everyone. Whenever she tried to approach, he would instantly notice and create distance.

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After a few more tries,  Elissa managed to get close enough that the ape couldn’t hide the secret item from her any longer. The woman held up the item and was shocked to realize that it was alive and breathing. Bobo had been hiding a tiny living creature all this time.

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The Tiny Living Creature

Bobo got scared, took the creature back, and headed into the overgrown grass. The caregivers followed slowly behind him with a mixture of curiosity and excitement. They tried not to be too obvious. Bobo ducked into some bushes while holding his little buddy.

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The caregivers had been following the giant ape for some time when the sound of crying started. The little creature that Bobo carried was crying out, but Elissa couldn’t identify what it was. She needed a closer look, so she went into stealth mode, sneaking through the grass towards Bobo. 

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Was It a Rat?

As she watched the creature, it became clear to Elissa that the living thing looked like a tiny rodent. It appeared to be comfortable in the gorilla’s hands. When the caregiver examined its face up close, a realization hit her.

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A pair of binoculars helped clarify things for Elissa. She was puzzled by what she saw. It turned out that the little animal wasn’t a rodent at all. That explains why the little creature didn’t seem scared of Bobo. What could we have here?

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Paternal Instinct

The nonprofit sanctuary Mefou is a home for primates in need. With more than 300 apes under their care, it’s not uncommon to lose track of their whereabouts once in a while. The staff ensures all primate residents get what they need, but they also give them the freedom to roam.

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Everyone in the sanctuary is committed to providing individualized treatment to all the apes. The question is, where did this little creature come from then?  It was a great mystery, but one thing we do know for sure is that the little guy is in good hands with Bobo.

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The Lost Guest

It turns out that Bobo’s buddy was an adorable little galago. The staff at Mefou made the surprising conclusion that this creature must have entered their sanctuary from outside, possibly due to a gate or other ingress point being left ajar.

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The galago is also known as a “bush baby” due to the crying sound they make. The galago is a small, insect-eating primate with thick grayish-brown fur and white tufts on its face. Though Bobo loved and cared for the galago as if it were his own, the sanctuary did not want him to take on such a responsibility.

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Fearless Little One

The bushbaby was not afraid of Bobo. She moved around his body and spent time hopping around an open grassy area before finally returning to him. The caregivers were surprised to see this close relationship between Bobo and his little buddy.

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When she first saw the giant ape and his pet galago, Elissa was not expecting anything out of the ordinary. What surprised her was how Bobo treated the small creature with great affection. These were two creatures that wouldn’t normally become friends in the wild. At the very least, we humans aren’t aware of such alliances! But here at the sanctuary, this heartwarming relationship began.

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Nocturnal Monkey

“Bush babies are usually nocturnal, so it is very rare to see one and even rarer to witness this kind of interaction,” Elissa explained. The galago has large eyes, giving it good night vision. Its long tail helps it balance, while its strong hind limbs give it good hopping abilities.

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The galago is a rare type of monkey that feeds on insects at night, so to see one being fed breakfast by the gorilla was absolutely fascinating. From our understanding, a galago would normally run from a large primate for fear of being killed. 

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An Unexpected Friendship

Wild primates and rescued ones seldom interact with each other like this. They’re either at a sanctuary or in the jungle, Elisa said, motioning to an enclosure of monkeys. The way primates act can be quite different from one another, depending on where you find them.

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The unique positioning of the Mefou Sanctuary in the forest made it possible for this encounter between an adorable little wildling and a friendly gorilla to occur. Despite the vastly different lives they were living, they came into contact with one another and made friends. This was something the caregivers never expected!

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A New Member of the Family

“The little bushbaby was happy to play in Bobo’s arms, hopping off to explore the grass nearby before returning,” Elissa explained with a smile on her face curving from ear-to-ear as she spoke of this astonishingly rare occurrence in the sanctuary.

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As the other apes in his group discovered what Bobo had been obsessed with, he attracted a crowd of curious primates wanting to get a close look. The creature soon became very popular with the other apes, who also enjoyed playing with the curious creature.

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Back Off

Bobo was worried about how his new friend would react to the apes, but he made sure that no one disturbed the little bushbaby. The males of Bobos’ group desperately wanted to get a closer look, which led to a commotion.

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In the middle of the disturbance, the little guy got scared, so Bobo held the tiny guest up high and gave it a chance to go back into its natural habitat. Elissa documented everything on video. Everyone in the sanctuary was thrilled to witness Bobo act like a father protecting his child.

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The Encounter was Posted on Facebook

The staff at the sanctuary captured every moment of the interaction on camera, and they put it on social media for all to see. “Our silverback gorilla Bobo made a surprising new friend this week – a wild bushbaby!” Elissa captioned the post.

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“Caregivers discovered him cradling the tiny primate during their morning checks and were amazed to see him handling it with the utmost care.” This discovery proves that gorillas are gentle giants of the forest. They enjoy playing with each other and making new friends.

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Facebook Reactions

The video of Bobo and the bushbaby was so moving that it went viral in less than 24 hours. It garnered more than 2,000 comments and over 1.7 million views from all over the world. This touching story about an unlikely friendship between these furry friends is one worth watching for sure.

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The people of social media were full of praise for Bobo. He is a wonder, some said. Animals can feel love, though human beings sometimes forget this. It was a rare moment in history, so we’re hoping someone will learn from this.

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Empathic Beings

“These gorillas have a very nurturing and empathic nature. The human race could learn from these beautiful, thoughtful animals,” a Facebook user wrote. We hope there are countless examples like this every day across social media feeds to teach humans to acknowledge animals’ sentience.

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“Exactly why I love gorillas… because they’re amazingly gentle giants who are extremely intelligent animals,” another person commented on Facebook. Many people agreed with her sentiment that these magnificent creatures should be protected from extinction because they are such a vital part of our world today.

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The Threats Wild Animals Are Facing

The forests of the Congo Basin are some of Earth’s most beautiful and important habitats, but their fate is uncertain. The apes living there now face a low chance of survival due to poaching and deforestation.

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The two main species of gorillas here are the western lowland and eastern mountain gorillas. There’s also a subspecies called the cross river gorilla, which lives in West Africa near Nigeria. The western lowlands gorilla usually inhabits rainforests, while eastern mountain gorillas live on slopes at higher elevations within primary tropical habitats.

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Brilliant Creatures

Gorilla intelligence is not only limited to their physical skills. Wild gorillas have shown that they are also brilliant creatures. For example, wild gorillas have been seen helping baby gorillas climb trees by building ladders from branches. Gorillas can also communicate using 25 different sounds.

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Gorillas use other tools as well. They can often be seen using sticks to measure water depth. Sticks are also great for collecting ants to eat. Many people have no idea that an ape could be so wise.

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A Close Relative

It turns out that humans and gorillas have a close genetic relationship. We are genetically similar to each other, sharing 98% of the same DNA! This is surprising because we thought chimpanzees were more closely related to us. Sadly, estimates are that there are only around 100,000 gorillas left alive today.

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In Cameroon, animal charity organizations are working to change the narrative around primates. They rely on donations from volunteers, students of zoology, and the public. The sanctuary needs so much help with care costs.

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The Origin of the Primate Sanctuary

Ape Action Africa began as a UK charity called CWAF (Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund). The charity’s main goal was to improve living conditions for primates housed at Mvog-Betsi Zoo in Yaoundé, Cameroon. This included chimps and monkeys, which poachers have often targeted.

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The non-profit organization CWAF has been helping wild orphans survive and thrive in their new surroundings for twelve years. One such orphan is Bobo, who was taken from the illegal bushmeat trade to live as part of a family at the Mefou Primate Sanctuary, where he now enjoys life among friends!

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A Great Project

For more than 50 years, Ape Action Africa has been the leading organization for conservation in African nations. It has around 300 primates under its care and extensive experience with wildlife management programs throughout Africa. We are so happy to know that this project has helped gorillas, chimpanzees, and other primates survive animal cruelty.

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Bobo’s group is a thriving community of silverbacks in the Mefou Primate Sanctuary. It includes four females – Avishag, baby Eto-fils, Geri, and Jasmine. Along with them are the three males – Bobo the alpha and Kibu and Nkamum, the younger ones.

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Public Awareness

Bobo’s adorable affection has captured the internet’s attention. His rise to fame helped raise awareness about the plight of these animals and the charity groups that work hard every day to maintain Cameroon’s natural heritage for future generations. 

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Their efforts are vital. Without them, we would lose many creatures like Bobo that have been held back from the brink of extinction. People are now also aware that the current poaching practices and habitat loss due to increasing industrialization have caused a decrease in the 20 million hectares of rainforest in Cameroon.

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Preserving The Natural Habitat

Though it may be a sad reality, many people still don’t know that primates are endangered. If we want them to survive into the future with our help and protection, then we need to make some significant changes to give them a place to thrive in this world.

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The world should not give up on primates just yet. With the proper measures put in place, there is still hope for their conservation. “It is incredibly heartening to see how the efforts of so many different groups – communities, governments, NGOs – have paid off. The threats to mountain gorillas haven’t disappeared entirely, of course, so now the challenge must be to ensure that these achievements are sustained long into the future.” These words came from Sir David Attenborough during his visit to Cameroon. There is always still hope and more we can do to support conservation.

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