Living with a gorilla

Man kisses gorilla

Yes, that is a man kissing a gorilla. Yes, they do live together. Yes, they do sleep in the same bed.

But it’s more of a father-daughter relationship. Pierre Thivillon is in fact happily married to a human woman (who also, apparently, sleeps in the bed). The French couple, who own a zoo in Saint-Martin-la-Plaine near Lyon, adopted the female gorilla, Digit, when her mother wouldn’t breastfeed her. That was in 1998. Since then the gorilla has spent her days at the zoo, and nights in the Thivillon family home.

Digit the gorilla

Their guests may find it a little disconcerting, but Pierre and Elianne see Digit as one of the family, and have developed a strong bond with her. Not so Digit’s brother – he initially also lived in the house until he became too aggressive. That must have been… awkward.

There is, however, a serious side to this tale. Although Digit is one gorilla saved by man, an estimated 93% of the great apes have disappeared over the course of the 20th century, largely as a result of hunting and deforestation. Even now, the meat of humankind’s closest relatives is still traded and eaten daily. That is really awkward.

Digit and Pierre

The story of Pierre, Elianne and Digit is the subject of a 2007 documentary, the fittingly named Our Child is a Gorilla. (Let us know if you manage to get your hands on a copy.) For now, here’s a little – really little – clip to give you a flavour (you may need to reload the page to view the clip; requires Quicktime plugin):

Pics: Reuters

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Bob says:

Nice story. Wish you didn’t have to ruin it by using the stupid “awkward” meme.