I was struck by a news report this week out of Erie, PA:
An elderly gorilla that lives at a Pennsylvania zoo has a new companion: a bunny named Panda. The Erie Zoo’s gorilla, Samantha, has been without a full-time friend since the death of Rudy, a male gorilla, in 2005. But officials say the 47-year-old western lowland gorilla is too old to be paired with another gorilla. So they opted last month to introduce her to Panda, a Dutch rabbit, last month. The Erie Times-News reports Samantha and Panda get along well. Samantha will gently scratch under the bunny’s chin and share her food. Officials at the zoo say Samantha has always had a gentle personality. She was hand-raised and was more comfortable around humans even when Rudy was alive.
If you have been reading my book, The Menagerie: A Zoo Story, you will recognize a familiar premise – different species living together in harmony. In my imaginary zoo, I have elephants and chimpanzees living together. This seems far-fetched until you read about Samantha the Gorilla and her “pet” bunny. I’ll be interested to hear what some of my zoo colleagues think about the idea of elephants and chimps getting along. I think it is possible and I think it would be rewarding for the animals, but I doubt if anyone (myself included) would have the courage to try it in real life. Zoos are under intense public scrutiny and if anything went wrong, the criticism and headlines would be intense.
What do you think?