Friday, January 28, 2011

British gorilla walks like a man

Taken from the Ottawa Citizen

Is it evolution in action, or is Ambam just smarter than your average, um, gorilla?

A Silverback gorilla housed at a British nature park is the newest Internet sensation after a clip of the ape walking upright on his hind legs like a human was posted to YouTube._The footage of Ambam, a 21-year-old male gorilla who was born in captivity in Britain, was filmed last April by animal researcher Johanna Watson while she was working on a project on great ape locomotion.

The 220-kilogram animal, part of a bachelor group of critically endangered Western lowlands gorillas at the Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent, casually strolls across the screen in the video, oblivious to his knuckle dragging buddies.

Gorilla keeper Phil Ridges said all gorillas can walk upright to some extent, but he said the park doesn't have any others that can do it like Ambam.

And the behaviour appears to run in the family.

"Ambam's father Bitam used to display the same behaviour if he had handfuls of food to carry," said Ridges. "Ambam also has a full sister, Tamba, and a half sister at Howletts (another British nature park), who also sometimes stand and walk in the same way."

Ridges said the handlers think the great ape might stand up to get a height advantage to look over the wall when keepers come to feed him.

"Ambam can also carry a lot more food if he stands and uses both hands," he said. "And walking on two feet also means he doesn't get his hands wet when it is raining."

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