03/14/2012 at 10:00 PM EDT
Samantha the gorilla and Panda the Dutch rabbit are like two peas in a pod – and it doesn't matter that Samantha weighs about 200 lbs.
This unlikely pair met in February after zookeepers at Pennsylvania's Erie Zoo
decided the lonely 47-year-old gorilla needed a pal, one that was non-threatening to the fragile primate.
They chose Panda, a calm and sweet Dutch bunny, to be the first companion the lowland gorilla had been with since male gorilla Rudy died in 2005.
"To have something sharing their space that they can observe and interact with is always going to be beneficial," zoo Director Cindy Kreider told the Erie Times-News
. "Right off the bat, they hit it off."
Samantha and Panda's unusual friendship has captivated visitors, who stop by their enclosure hoping to see Samantha scratch Panda's chin or pat his soft fur gently.
Though Samantha towers over him, Panda seems unfazed by her size. "He's fearless," Scott Mitchell, the zoo's chief executive told the Times-News
. "He's not threatened by her. More often they're closer together than they are farther apart."