When I started to think about doing a small painting for World Gorilla Day, I went into my photos from a wildlife place in Australia that I visited in 2018. My feelings about primates in captivity are complex. As I am pretty sure that seeing a Gorilla in the wild may not be something that happens for me which means that I appreciate being able to see one in person. They are magnificent creatures.
On the day that we went to the open range zoo, we were the first people through the doors. I noticed the Western Lowland Gorilla was up on a rise and as soon as it saw us coming through the door it made a beeline for a shelter. As it moved to the shelter I noticed that It held a blankie in one of its back feet, dragging it along behind as it was trying to get away. The blankie caught me by surprise and reminded me of one of my son's that when he was stressed would gather his blankie around him. I continued to take a few photos but at one point looking through my camera viewfinder I realized that the Gorilla facial expression was one of stress. I immediately stopped taking photos and turned away.
The thing humans forget, and I forgot on that day, is that we are the only animals who have the whites of their eyes always showing. Other animals find that stressful and I have learned to squint my eyes when approaching wildlife that I want to photograph. As I turned my face away from the Gorilla I thought that I am only one person but the place was soon filled with many more people.
While I was there I don't remember seeing another Gorilla. I know that, like humans, Gorillas are social beings. The fact that this amazing animal will live 40 years or longer in captivity and alone deeply saddens me. I know that it has caregivers who are part of its social network, but that is just not the same.
According to WWF "Gorillas are gentle giants and display many human-like behaviours and emotions, such as laughter and sadness. In fact, gorillas share 98.3% of their genetic code with humans, making them our closest cousins after chimpanzees and bonobos."
" Females become sexually mature around seven or eight years old but don’t begin to breed until a couple of years later. Males mature at an even greater age. Once a female begins to breed, she'll likely give birth to only one baby every four to six years and only three or four over her entire lifetime. This low rate of reproduction makes it difficult for gorillas to recover from population declines. Both gorilla species have been decreasing in numbers for decades, and a 2010 United Nations report suggests that they may disappear from large parts of the Congo Basin by the mid-2020s."
Imagine they are so close to being extinct. It saddens me that the human race continues make it nearly impossible for some animals to coexist with us on the planet. We destroy habitat for so many reasons but the results are always the same...extinction for some.
Why did I want to take the time to do a painting to celebrate Gorillas, because they are magnificent inhabitants on our planet. I wanted to remind people that we have a far greater responsibility than any other mammal on this planet to protect all the other mammals who coexist with us. WE seem to forget that we too are mammals.
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Shawna is capturing moments of beauty from the world around her.
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