Zoos play an important role in our society, giving us a glimpse into the lives of the animals they are home to. In November 2017 visitors to Twycross Zoo in the U.K. got a fascinating look into the shenanigans of a baby gorilla named Shufai. The little primate was acting up in his enclosure, but his dad Oumbi was not amused – and was quick to reprimand him.
Located in Leicestershire, England, Twycross Zoo was opened back in 1963 by Natalie Evans and Molly Badham. The pair had owned a pet shop in nearby Staffordshire, but their growing collection of animals meant they needed to move to a bigger site. Since then, the zoo has proved to be a very popular attraction and showcases a variety of wildlife.
However, in recent years Twycross has focused its attention on one area in particular and has rebranded itself as “The World Primate Centre.” As a result, the zoo is now home to a number of different apes and monkeys, including the western lowland gorilla, chimpanzees and the black-headed spider monkey.
Unfortunately, though, the western lowland gorilla is an endangered species, with over 60 percent of its population disappearing in the past two decades. The gorillas are usually found in the swamps and rainforests of Central Africa, but there are now real fears for their future. “Scientists predict they will become extinct in the next 20 years or so,” a Twycross spokesman told the Daily Mail in September 2016.
However, by setting up breeding groups at the zoo, Twycross is doing its part to ensure that maudlin scenario doesn’t come to pass. Back in 2009 the zoo had three female western lowland gorillas named Asante, Biddi and Ozala under its care, the latter of which was actually born at Twycross. With the trio in place, a silverback soon arrived in Leicestershire as a potential mate.
His name was Oumbi, and some three years later his chosen mate Ozala fell pregnant. On January 3, 2013, Ozala gave birth to a baby boy named Lope. “The baby is a very important addition to the family and mom is confident and content enough to let dad, Oumbi, get a close look,” Dr Charlotte Macdonald, director of life sciences at the zoo, told BBC News in March 2013.
“[Oumbi] is very interested in his new son and in the future will play a very important role in helping him to develop,” Dr Macdonald added. Twycross’ zoological director, Sharon Redrobe, expanded on that point, giving a more detailed insight into Oumbi’s approach. “He’ll get more playful [with Lope] up until he’s about five and that’s when they’ll be quite rough and tumble,” she told BBC News in June 2013.
Meanwhile, some three years after Lope’s birth, Oumbi and Ozala had another child together. Baby Shufai was delivered on September 24, 2016, much to the delight of the zoo’s staff. Following Shufai’s birth, though, Dr Macdonald outlined just how important the little gorilla could be to Twycross.
“We hope lots of visitors will come to see the baby and its family and learn more about gorillas,” Dr Macdonald told the Daily Mail in September 2016. “Ozala and Oumbi are very experienced parents. Oumbi is a gentle giant and is often seen playing with Lope, while Ozala is a resourceful, stern and protective mother and is the one who makes sure Lope behaves himself by disciplining him.”
Much like his brother, Shufai grew up in his family’s enclosure under the watchful eye of Oumbi and Ozala, playing around as babies often do. However, in November 2017, a group of visitors caught a glimpse of the two gorillas’ parenting techniques, with one person capturing the fascinating incident on video.
The footage opens with the sun beating down on the enclosure as Shufai chases after his brother Lope. Then Oumbi makes his presence known. Standing upright, the dad is seen picking up a number of tree branches scattered across the ground, which in turn catches the attention of his youngest son.
As Lope walks away, Shufai starts to follow his father, staying close behind the silverback. After moving those initial branches, Oumbi then comes back into the middle of the enclosure after spying another one. However, unbeknown to Oumbi, his little son’s eyes are firmly fixed on the same piece of foliage.
Shufai grabs the branch as Oumbi approaches, but that doesn’t stop his father from picking it up too. With his son still firmly holding on, the silverback then walks over to his mate Ozala with the branch, before brushing little Shufai off. But the fun and games don’t end there.
Undeterred by his dad’s actions, Shufai follows Oumbi back into the enclosure’s center, keeping his beady eyes peeled for scattered branches. As his father walks towards another one, the youngster gets close behind him, seemingly looking to grab his attention. But Oumbi’s had enough and quickly reacts to his son’s incessant pestering.
As Shufai makes a nuisance of himself, Oumbi immediately responds by lashing out with his right leg. It’s not a violent act, but it still succeeds in knocking his son clean onto his behind. And although the silverback’s reaction draws a gasp from the watching visitors, the little fella isn’t hurt. Indeed, Shufai watches his pa amble off before the little one heads back to his mother, who’s also gathering tree branches.
After tapping Ozala on the back, Shufai then saunters off, bringing the video to a close. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the primates’ family life, but few could’ve predicted the response it generated after the clip was uploaded to YouTube in November 2017. Titled “Rowdy baby gorilla gets disciplined by dad,” the video has since earned over two million views and close to 4,000 likes.
The footage was also shared on Facebook, where it was seen by yet more people. Indeed, the post earned over 34,000 likes from online users, as well as over 7,000 shares. The clip also generated close to 2,000 comments, most of which joked about Oumbi’s parenting skills.
However, one comment in particular made reference to the western lowland gorillas’ status outside the zoo, noting their perilous position. “The video is adorable, but it’s sad to think that these majestic, intelligent animals are being driven to extinction in the wild by man,” wrote Facebook user Witchhazel Hortense.
“It brings tears to my eyes that one day, there are going to be so many species that will only be alive in zoos, all because humans don’t feel they are important,” Hortense added. “Wake up world before it’s too late.” Despite their dwindling numbers in the wild, though, Twycross Zoo is certainly trying its best to ensure the western lowland gorillas’ long-term survival.
Zoos continue to play an important role in our society, as they give us a glimpse of the animal kingdom in action. That was certainly the case at Twycross Zoo in November 2017. And although he was being watched by a curious crowd of people, silverback Oumbi wasn’t afraid to discipline his playful baby boy for not doing as dad wanted.