A Saintly Simian Named Jambo Comes to the Aid of a British Lad Who Dropped in Unexpectedly
updated 10/13/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 10/13/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT
That's when a 400-pound gorilla called Jambo, whose name means "greetings" in Swahili, came into the picture. To keep the other six gorillas from getting too close, Jambo "put his big arm out and pushed them away," Levan's mother Pauline reports. Jambo then sat next to the boy, gently poking him with a finger at one point. A few minutes later, Levan opened his eyes, saw Jambo and did what any 5-year-old would do under the circumstances: He screamed. The 25-year-old Western Lowlands gorilla was unfazed. By this time a zoo official had climbed over the wall and managed to coax Jambo and the others to move away. After his rescue, Levan was treated for a broken arm and a mild concussion.
"It was typical of him specifically rather than gorillas in general," says head keeper Richard Johnstone-Scott of Jambo's kindly act. "He was obviously concerned. He was also saying 'He's mine.' He was protecting the child for himself." Though the other gorillas grumbled a bit, Johnstone-Scott explains, Jambo is their leader and "he doesn't have to do an awful lot for his group to take notice." Adds Pauline, "Jambo was just like a dad. He was just lovely."
Recently the Merritts left their home in Sussex to pay a visit to Jambo, courtesy of a London newspaper and the zoo. His arm in a sling and protected this time by three inches of glass, Levan chatted happily with Jambo. "I'm not scared," says Levan, who doesn't recall the incident. "Jambo loves me. He looked after me, didn't he? Jambo is my friend."