|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 her alleged linguistic accomplishments. 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 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 crying boy while helpless spectators screamed, certain that the gorillas would harm him. Instead, Binti protected the child. When other gorillas attempted to get anywhere near the boy, Binti growled and kept them at bay.
Binti consoled the child and kept the other gorillas away until zoo personnel could rescue the boy. When zoo personnel entered the exhibit to retrieve the child, Binti actually brought the boy to them. 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 her heroics, 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, 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.