Gorilla Refuses To Let Others Near, Then Staff Looked At His Hands

Gorilla Refuses To Let Others Near, Then Staff Looked At His Hands

Welcome to the Mefou Primate Sanctuary in Cameroon, home of Bobo the ape. Out of the few hundred gorillas, chimpanzees, and monkeys at the sanctuary, Bobo was the most popular. One day, staff members noticed that he was acting very secretive. But they just couldn’t figure out what the primate was keeping from them. Then, when they finally got a glimpse at his hands, the mystery began to unravel. What was Bobo the gorilla trying to hide?

The Difficulties of Bobo the Ape

You don’t just go up to an ape and demand to see what’s in his hands, especially if he’s been hiding it from you. Instead of approaching Bobo, the staff studied him from afar, observing his every move. When Bobo began hiding in the tall grass, workers began to grow fearful. He had a history of being… difficult to work with.

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At the Mefou Primate Sanctuary

When Bobo was just two years old, he arrived at the Mefou Primate Sanctuary, orphaned after poachers snatched his mother from his clutches. Naturally, he wasn’t too fond of humans at the time. He would often hide away as a baby, refusing to let humans come near. How would he respond now when humans were, once again, attempting to take something away from him?

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Cream of the Crop

After being hurt so deeply at such a young age, it was only natural for Bobo to seek control in his new environment. Soon, the 350-pound Bobo was the most dominant gorilla in the sanctuary, even though he had been challenged several times for the top spot.

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The Heavyweight Champ

“Younger males Kibu and Nkamum once challenged Bobo for his position,” said one of Bobo’s closest caretakers, Elissa. “They were never successful and no longer attempt to take control,” and never managed to become champions of the environment. So, it was the biggest, toughest ape holding something in his hands at the sanctuary.

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Emotional Shift

Fortunately, over the years, Elissa had managed to get closer to Bobo as he grew into adulthood. She discovered that Bobo was really a sweet, loving creature with no desire to be aggressive. Despite his gigantic stature, Bobo was never violent with the other apes. That’s why his sudden change in behavior concerned staffers, who knew that trauma could pop back up at any time.

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No Confidences

Bobo’s strange behavior — not letting staffers see his hands — was quite the opposite of what one would expect from the king of the jungle. According to Elissa, it seemed like Bobo’s confidence had vanished. The once confident and fierce gorilla was now hiding away in the foliage, refusing to let anyone near. This got Elissa worried for Bobo’s well-being.

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Secrets Secrets Are No Fun…

Not only was Bobo shying away from caretakers who came near, but he was also staying clear of other apes. Somehow, he’d been able to keep his secret from even the most curious primates in the enclosure. Finally, caretakers noticed that Bobo was paying special attention to his hands. Elissa realized that the giant ape was holding something — and it was alive!

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Looking Closer

Once the sanctuary workers realized that Bobo had a living creature with him, things changed big time. Whatever was in there could pose a threat to all the apes and humans around, especially if Bobo went into full protection mode. One day, when Bobo wandered off from his grassy lair, Elissa decided to explore his hiding spot.

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Search and Rescue

Elissa stayed low as she combed through the grass, checking for signs of dug holes or even a nest. Unfortunately, her search was turning up nothing. When she saw Bobo coming back, Elissa quickly exited the foliage and hid empty-handed. Where was the thing he’d been holding?

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Oh, That’s Why

From a safe distance way, Elissa watched Bobo re-enter the grass and realized why her search was a failure — because Bobo had kept the creature on him the whole time! He definitely wasn’t going to make this an easy mission. What would Elissa do now?


The Wrong Kind of Lunch

Days passed and the staff grew more and more concerned. Soon, Elissa began to hear crying from Bobo’s clutches, making the ape even more protective. It seemed the food Bobo had been attempting to feed the small creature wasn’t quite right. What could this small, crying critter be? The staff began to put the pieces together.

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Elissa reasoned that this small creature couldn’t be a monkey from the sanctuary, as it was far too small. However, it could be a baby, though that also seemed unlikely, as the staff kept a close eye on all the newborns. And it couldn’t be a rodent, as it was sitting so peacefully in Bobo’s grasp. They realized it must be a creature from outside the sanctuary… but what?

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Binoculars, Activate!

Elissa grabbed a pair of binoculars and sat for hours, waiting for the right angle. She was determined to get a glimpse of this little animal, which Bobo had successfully concealed for so long. Finally, she was able to get a close-up look at the object of Bobo’s obsession — and it was another primate!

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Bush Baby Buddies

Unlike the other primates at the sanctuary, this intruder was extremely small. Galagos, also known as “bush babies,” are tiny, lemur-like monkeys that make a distinct sound, explaining all the crying from earlier. Despite Bobo’s fondness for his break-in buddy, the staff knew it wouldn’t be right to let the galago stay. And yet, the bond between the two unlikely friends said otherwise.

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“The bush baby showed no fear of Bobo, moving around his body and spending time hopping around in an open grassy area before choosing to return to Bobo,” said Elissa. However, she couldn’t figure out why the animal had showed up at all. “Bush babies are usually nocturnal so it is very rare to see one,” she said. “Even rarer to witness this kind of interaction.” Soon, other apes at the sanctuary began to take notice as well.

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Danger, Will Robinson

A dominant gorilla feeding and caring for a bush baby doesn’t go unnoticed by the pack. In fact, Elissa noticed that the other apes were now fascinated by Bobo and his little pet. Who wouldn’t be taken aback by a cross-species relationship like this? Now, the enclosure was becoming a dangerous place for the galago — and Bobo knew it.

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First Time for Everything

“Wild primates and rescued ones seldom interact with each other like this,” says Elissa. “They’re either at a sanctuary or they’re in the jungle. We have never witnessed a wild primate interacting with a rescued one.” Given the unusual nature of this interaction, it was no surprise when Bobo finally figured out the dangers of keeping a companion like this one. Especially when other apes started showing signs of aggression.

Mefou Primate Sanctuary

Curiosity Didn’t Kill the Galagos

“Bobo’s group-mates were desperately curious, but he kept them all at a distance, making sure no one disturbed his new friend,” said Elissa. This constant protection was all-too-familiar for Bobo, whose mother experienced the same kind of threats before succumbing to poachers. That’s when Bobo did something truly amazing.

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A Friend in the Palm

Just as caretakers were wondering how they’d manage to separate the bush baby from the defensive ape, Bobo did something that took the staff by surprise. Elissa even managed to capture the incident on tape! The recording instantly went viral, receiving over a million views worldwide. What were viewers so fascinated by?

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So Long

The sanctuary was becoming too dangerous for a tiny bush baby to survive, even with a giant ape by its side, so Bobo decided to say goodbye to his little pal. The 350-pound gorilla rushed to place the tiny primate onto a tree branch that was peeking in from outside the enclosure, returning the bush baby to the wild from which it came.

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Glory to Bobo

“These gorillas have a very nurturing and empathic nature, the human race could learn from these beautiful, thoughtful animals,” wrote one viewer of the video. That’s precisely what fascinated the world about Bobo. His actions revealed careful decision-making, beyond what Elissa or any other experts had seen before.

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Gorilla Spy Cam

Hoping to observe more unfiltered gorilla behavior, experts at the Mefou Primate Sanctuary, a forest reserve for orphaned and injured animals, decided to conduct an experiment. Using a spy robot, scientists took an inside look at the apes’ society. And their findings are changing everything we thought we knew about these animals.

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Apes Are Like Us

While Elissa and other experts already know that gorillas are vastly complex and emotionally intelligent, they wanted to see how the animals behaved when they thought no human was around to see them. They hoped their spy would reveal some behavioral connections to humans beyond what we already know.

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See, experts already know that gorillas live in social groups known as troops and communicate through a variety of vocalizations and gestures. They’re also capable of using tools and, in captivity, have even learned sign language and adopted pets.

The Gorilla Foundation

Into the Wild

Based on that reality, scientists want to learn as much as they can about the apes. There’s a limit to what you can learn in captivity, though. Studying gorillas in the wild is far superior.

Finding Subjects

Studying gorillas in their natural habitat, however, isn’t the easiest feat. On a purely logistical basis, the apes only live in a few scattered areas of Africa; getting there, let alone finding them, can be quite a challenge.

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Look Out!

Most animals are also skeptical of outsiders, especially those of the human variety, and gorillas are no exception. If a scientist simply walked up to a troop of apes in the wild, things would get pretty ugly.

Lights, Cameras… Wait

Even a camera isn’t a perfect solution; gorillas would realize that the technology doesn’t belong in their native habitat and act accordingly. Thankfully for the scientific community, those who study the apes are nothing if not creative.

Spy in the Wild

So, as documented in the PBS series Nature: Spy in the Wild 2, filmmakers and scientists created a hidden camera that could infiltrate an ape troop. This piece of technology, however, did more than simply record.

The Test

In order to fool these intelligent apes, the camera was placed inside of an animatronic gorilla! Its infiltration abilities were put to the test soon after the team arrived in Uganda.


Once on the ground in Africa, the team headed into a sanctuary where they knew gorillas could be found. They set up the camera and, before long, its powers of disguise were put to the test.

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Alpha Male

As you might assume, a new gorilla appearing in the mountains is going to attract some attention. Unsurprisingly, the troop’s dominant male noticed the visitor and came over to check it out.


Fists of Fury

Upon seeing that there was a strange new ape present, the silverback needed to determine if he was a threat to the troop. In that moment, the spy gorilla would be put to the ultimate test…


“We wanted to make sure that we were not being threatening, so we averted the gaze of our spy gorilla,” Spy in the Wild 2 producer Matt Gordon explained. The team adjusted the robot’s eyes, hoping for the best.

Looking In

The dominant male accepted the gesture. The spy gorilla was in! Before long, the rest of the troop crowded around the camera, vying to check out their strange, new visitor.


Once it was accepted by the group, the spy gorilla got to work filming. After beating its chest, for example, it was able to observe some young apes during playtime!



That wasn’t the only unique behavior the camera captured, though. One night during mealtime, the spy gorilla recorded something that scientists hadn’t seen before. They couldn’t believe their eyes…or ears.


While eating, the gorillas hummed! While there had been stories of the apes “singing” before, there was no video evidence to confirm the behavior. There were quite a few quirks within the performance.

Chorus of Appreciation

Based on the spy gorilla’s surveillance, it seems that older, male gorillas sing more than anyone else. They also prefer to produce a “chorus of appreciation” while eating a vegetarian meal, rather than insects. 


That wasn’t the only sound the camera caught, however. After eating their meal, the gorillas were also pretty gassy; before long, loud farts replaced the singing as the primary soundtrack among the troop! Still, experts had a lot to learn about gorillas.

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