|Born||March 17, 1988|
|Owner||Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, Illinois|
Binti Jua (born March 17, 1988) is a female western lowland gorilla in the Brookfield Zoo, in Brookfield, Illinois, outside of Chicago. She was involved in an incident in 1996, in which she tended to a three-year-old boy who had fallen into her enclosure.
Binti Jua (whose name means "Daughter of Sunshine" in Swahili) is the niece of Koko, a gorilla whose linguistic accomplishments have been the subject of several scientific studies. 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 daughter named Koola with a wild-born silverback called Abe. She also has a son named Bakari with another wild-born silverback, 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. Bakari 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. She also has a great-grandson named Zachary through Kamba.
Zoo enclosure rescue
On August 16, 1996, when Binti Jua was eight years old, a three-year-old boy climbed the wall around the gorilla exhibit and fell 18 feet into the gorilla enclosure below, suffering a broken hand and a large gash on the side of his face.
Binti walked towards the unconscious boy while spectators screamed. Binti cradled the child and laid him down when she heard her shift door open to her downstairs enclosure. Her 17-month-old baby, Koola, clutched her back throughout the incident. The boy spent four days in the hospital and recovered fully. Binti received international media attention from this incident, and for many months afterwards, received special treats and food from zoo staffers, and much attention from visitors.
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 by humans, 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. Primatologist Frans de Waal, however, uses Binti Jua as an example of empathy in animals.
There are many other examples of animals (especially primates) demonstrating apparent altruism. In a situation very similar to Binti's, 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 appear to comfort each other after an attack or other trauma.