|Species||Gorilla gorilla gorilla|
|Born||March 17, 1988|
|Owner||Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, Illinois|
Binti Jua is a female western lowland gorilla in the Brookfield Zoo, in Brookfield, Illinois, outside of Chicago. She is best known for an incident in which she saved a three year old boy who fell into her enclosure.
Binti Jua (whose name means "Daughter of Sunshine" in Swahili) is the niece of Koko, the gorilla world famous for learning American Sign Language. Her mother, Lulu, was originally from the Bronx Zoo and died on January 24, 2011 after residing at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Her father is Sunshine (from the San Francisco Zoo).
Binti Jua has a child with the late, wild-born silverback called Abe, a daughter named Koola. She also has a son with another wild-born silverback, named Ramar, who was purchased by Jack Badal as a baby and was trained to do circus stunts. Ramar inspired a book called Jungle to Stage. Their son is named Bakari and resides at the Saint Louis Zoo with his half-brother, Nadaya. Binti has two granddaughters: Kamba, born to her daughter Koola and silverback Ramar, and Nora, born to Koola and silverback JoJo.
Zoo enclosure rescue
Binti is best known for an incident which occurred on August 16, 1996, when she was eight years old. A three-year old boy climbed the wall around her zoo enclosure and fell 18 feet onto concrete below, rendering him unconscious with a broken hand and a large gash on the side of his face.
Binti walked to the boy's side while helpless spectators screamed, certain the gorilla would harm the child. Another larger female gorilla approached, and Binti growled.
Binti consoled the child and kept the other animals at bay, so that zoo personnel could retrieve him. Her 17-month-old baby, Koola, clutched her back throughout the incident. The boy spent four days in the hospital and recovered fully.
After the incident, experts debated whether Binti's actions were a result of training by the zoo or animal altruism. Because Binti had been hand-raised, as opposed to being raised in the wild by other gorillas, she has had to be specially trained to care for an infant and to take her child to personnel for examinations. One could assume that this training resulted in her behavior when the little boy fell into her enclosure. Primatologist Frans de Waal, however, uses Binti Jua as an example of empathy in animals.
However, there are many other examples of animals (especially primates) demonstrating apparent altruism. The strongest argument for the altruistic explanation involves a situation very similar to Binti's, in which a male gorilla named Jambo, of Jersey Zoo, protected a 5-year-old child who had fallen into his enclosure. Jambo was not trained to care for children and was raised in captivity by his own gorilla mother, so that his actions may have involved an instinctive sense that the child needed his help. Similar behavior has been seen in chimps who "comfort" each other after an attack or other trauma.