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Unlikely Animal Friends and unexpected lessons...

For the first time in a long time, last year(2020) I was able to get a membership to our local zoo. A membership to the zoo, is something my family had while I was growing up and some of my fondest memories are of time spent there.

For a bit of background, due to health issues and the inability to walk any sort of distance for over a decade, and the zoo not being the most accessible place.. it was very hard for me to visit and something I missed greatly.

Fast forward to summer of 2020 and I was able to get a new membership and visit any time I wanted! I wasn't too sure how Foreman would respond as he had never been to a zoo, it was a new experience and A LOT for him to take in. We went prepared(i.e. with his pencil case with treats) and our first visit could not have gone better! Foreman was loving it and was his usual solid, confident self.

After adventuring around the zoo seeing most of the animals there, we came to my FAVOURITE animal... the gorillas. Up until this point, all the animals had been at a fair distance, but due to the way the Gorilla's day room is, the window is right there and at floor level. We slowly approached and all of a sudden the next thing I knew, the youngest gorilla of the troop affectionately known as "Baby Charlie" came up to the window and started staring at Foreman. I held my breath and prepared myself to move in case she was bothered by Foreman or vice versa. They were both fascinated by each other and spent time just trying to figure each other out.

Charlie would wander off and bring her mum Ngozi over or her older sister Nneka and just study Foreman at the window while they enjoyed their food. I was absolutely floored by the connection taking place and sat there in awe. Not going to lie, I did question if they knew he was a dog.

We returned a couple weeks later and the same thing happened. Charlie would see Foreman and come bounding over to the window and sit there and watch him. Occasionally should would give the window a tap almost to say "HEY! I'm here, look at me, I want to play!"

It has been over a year now and this is now a regular thing between the two of them as well as with other members of the troop. I have also had the privilege of expanding my knowledge about our troop, getting to know some of the keepers and learning about gorillas and what continues to make them a critically endangered species.

Did you know there is a connection between the logging of African forests and primate poaching? While the logging of the African forests is destroying gorilla habitats at an unprecedented rate, this logging has also helped hunters gain access deep into these forests(places that would've been inaccessible before) while they hitch rides on the back of logging trucks armed with rifles and other firearms. This means they can often kill entire families of gorillas in one go. While hunting Gorillas is considered illegal, this type of bushmeat is considered a "delicacy" and with that comes a high cost people are willing to pay for it. This means, those hunting gorillas are willing to break this law to make money.

Another major contributor, to the destruction of their habitats is mining. Specifically mining of the mineral coltan. You may have never heard of heard of coltan, but if you are reading this, you are more than likely benefiting from it. Coltan is a mineral used in the making of all sorts of electronic devices from your cell phone, to your ipad or even xbox controller. The demand for coltan has meant each mine, be it legally operated or not, requires not only destruction of the forests to unearth the minerals, but even more destruction to set up camp for the numerous people who operate these mining sites and often to feed these people, wildlife from surrounding forests including gorillas are often hunted.

While I still have so much more to learn, I am grateful to be able to share some of the knowledge I have gained with those of you reading this. I am also thankful to be sharing the special connections we have made with our local gorilla troop and look forward to sharing more about how YOU can help gorillas!

If you are in the Toronto area, one way you can help Gorillas is by donating your old(even broken) cell phones to the Toronto Zoo! For more info on the "Phone Apes" program please visit: Toronto Zoo | Cell Phone Recycling at the Toronto Zoo!

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