I Dream of Africa
Behind a glass wall they sit, staring blankly off into the distance. Occasionally they'll turn their eyes to the glass wall where strange creatures peer in at them. Or when one of those strange creatures begin to beat on the glass wall and make strange sounds. The infants cling to their mothers' furry chests when events like this occur. They are afraid by the loud noises of the strange creatures on the other side of the glass wall.
They are subject to boredom each and every day. They must endure the mocking and screaming and other strange activities of the creatures that pear at them every day. This is the life of a gorilla.
Their relatives though, wander throughout the mountains of Africa enjoying freedom. It is dangerous in the mountains of Africa, for there is poachers and other hazards, but it is worth the risk because they have freedom.
In Rwanda, Africa a small group of mountain gorillas sit within the thick vegetation. The infants are rolling about on the ground playing with one another, while the adults munch away on leaves and other plant life. Nearby a mother gorilla calls to her infant and he comes running to her. In a simple gesture they reach out and touch hands. The infant puts his mother's hand to his lips and kisses it, reassuring her that he is fine. He then goes back to playing with the other infants. The scene is full of peace and contentment. But that scene is soon replaced with one of chaos and terror.
Four men rush into the area armed with spears and guns, along with a brown sack. They slowly approach the gorilla group. The silverback sees them and is furious by their entering into his domain. With a loud cry the silverback raises up on his hind legs and beats his chest. He charges the four men hoping to frighten them away. He stops halfway away from them. To his surprise the men don't budge. Glancing behind him the majestic silverback grunts warnings to his group to run. Then with courage and anger in his eyes he charges the four men again. This time he doesn't stop halfway but keeps on running towards. The men are prepared for this and one of them fires a shot from a rifle and the silverback falls to the ground, hit in the chest by a bullet. The rest of the group panic and began to scatter. But the men pursue them. The infant and his mother are separated and the mother looks around frantically, calling out to her son in loud 'oos'. She soon spots her son and is horrified to see that the men are approaching him. In their hands they hold a brown sack, ready to throw it over the infant gorilla.
The motherly instinct to protect her child kicked in and the mother gorilla charged towards the men. One of the men holds out his spear and stabs the mother gorilla in the side. She cries out in pain and looks down where the spear had stabbed her, blood oozes from the cut. With a loud cry she runs towards the men again. Another gunshot is fired and the mother gorilla collapses to the ground, dead.
Seeing his mother, the infant runs towards her body and climbs up on top of her, not knowing that she is dead. He caresses her face with the back of his little hand, confused and afraid. At that moment a man reaches down and grabs the infant by the arms and throws him into the brown sack. The infant's cries can be heard as the men carry him down the mountain.
In a small town in Rwanda, the infant is taken to a man by the name of Cleve Hammerstien, a man who captures wild animals to sell them to zoos. When he sees the infant gorilla that his men have captured he is delighted.
"Bring him in here," Cleve says as he leads the four men into the back of his little shop.
An iron cage is sitting in the middle of a dark and dank room.
"Put the beast in there," Cleve orders.
The men dump the infant into the cage and stand back to admire him. Terrified and confused the infant begins to run around the cage, hitting the iron bars. He rolls his eyes around and finally sits down in the middle of the cage.
"He'll bring a pretty penny," Cleve says.
In those few days while the infant was kept in the shop of Cleve Hammerstien, he was used as a profit 'bringer'. Cleve charged money for people to come in and see the infant gorilla. The infant had to endure rocks being thrown at him, yelling, and laughter from humans. Cleve even once reached down in the cage and pulled him out while a small group of onlookers watched. Taking a stubby cigarette from his mouth, Cleve began to burn the infant with the cigarette. Naturally the infant cried out in pain and this caused hoards of laughter from the group of onlookers.
A few days later the infant is sold to a zoo in America and is loaded into a crate and put on a plane. In the crate the infant looks through the cracks in fear. He is week from hunger and the loss of his mother. That life that was once within his brown eyes has been replaced with sadness and fear. His face is scarred from where Cleve had burned him with a cigarette multiple times. His life was no longer his own.
The infant was sold to a zoo in Georgia where he was placed in a cage with a concrete floor with several other gorillas. Unfortunately they would not accept the infant into their small elect and he stayed by himself most of the time. He had to endure once more the laughter and the strangeness of the humans that came to look at him every day. Soon though, due to his condition, the infant was moved to a somewhat better zoo in Louisville where he was placed in a large exhibit with lots of grass and tress. It was much better than the other zoo he had been in but it was still not Africa. And eventually the infant died from unknown causes.
The gorillas who are captured or 'rescued' to be put in zoos and other facilities, their life is not their own. They are torn from their beloved Africa to be placed in a cage or a 'exhibit' to entertain humans who could care less about them. The humans come to the zoo, take a quick glance at the gorillas, then leave. But some stay to beat the glass wall or to mock the gorillas who 'have funny faces'. They cannot see the sadness or the longing within the deep dark eyes of the gorillas. All they see is 'boring, funny, and dumb monkeys'. But there are some who do care for gorillas, who see the sadness, boredom, and longing within their eyes. It is these people who do all they can to make sure gorillas are happy and content. They care about gorillas' freedom.
If you are one of these people you understand. But if you are one of those people who make fun of gorillas at zoos or you simply just see a blank and dumb monkey when you look at gorillas, then consider this; instead of seeing just another 'dumb' or boring animal, look past that and experience something wonderful. Don't beat on the glass walls or the iron bars of a gorilla exhibit at a zoo if you go, don't make silly monkey noises and then laugh at your 'cleverness'. But stop and study the gorillas for a moment, put aside all of your silliness and try to understand what that gorilla went through just so you could be 'entertained'.
Many people say "Well the gorillas are safer in zoos and other facilities", and yes that is true, but their lives are filled with boredom and grief. Many of them were torn from their African homes in the mountains or lowlands just to be sold to a zoo where you could look at them through iron bars or a glass wall. Others were born into captivity and will never know what freedom means, how it feels to roam the mountains of Africa with their own kind, to smell the beautiful and strange smells of Africa, to see their young living and growing up…free. To be free is to live.
So I encourage those of who you read this, respect life and freedom. And the next time you look at a 'boring' gorilla in a zoo exhibit don't just glance at them as if they are nothing, look into their eyes for a moment and I'll guarantee you'll see one thing, you'll see that those gorillas are really speaking to us through their eyes, they are saying "I dream of Africa and…freedom."