Wednesday 20 September 2017

Walking gorilla marks 21st birthday

Ambam, a Western Lowland Gorilla, investigates a present as he celebrates his 21st birthday at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park
Ambam, a Western Lowland Gorilla, investigates a present as he celebrates his 21st birthday at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park

A gorilla who became a global internet sensation when footage emerged of him walking like a man has celebrated his 21st birthday.

Online video of western lowland gorilla Ambam aping humans with his unusual habit of walking upright has been viewed more than five million times.

Normally gorillas are used to getting around on all fours but Ambam has managed to perfect his balance on his two hind legs at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park near Hythe, Kent.

On Thursday he was joined by fellow primates to mark his milestone birthday at the park, where keepers handed him gift-wrapped boxes containing mixed seeds.

Head gorilla keeper Phil Ridges said: "All gorillas can walk bipedally to some extent but Ambam is particularly adept and stands very upright, so it is quite an unusual sight.

"We have had a lot of speculation that it is a man in a gorilla suit or that he has been trained to do this, but Ambam has not been trained in any way. It is just something he chooses and is able to do.

"We think he might use it to get a height advantage to look over the wall when keepers come to feed him, and standing up can also help him in looking for food generally in his enclosure as it gives him a better vantage point.

"Ambam can also carry a lot more food if he stands and uses both hands, and walking on two feet also means he doesn't get his hands wet when it is raining. There have certainly been more people coming down to see the gorillas at feeding time and looking out for him to stand up, but Ambam doesn't seem to know what the fuss is all about."

Ambam shares his birthday with stars including actresses Julie Christie and Sarah Michelle Gellar, cellist Julian Lloyd Webber and actor Robert Carlyle. However, the gorilla - who was sporting a large gash on his backside after a tussle with a fellow primate on Wednesday - declined to give visitors a glimpse of his walking skills at a photocall.

Port Lympne spokeswoman Charlotte Jones said: "He was a bit camera-shy but he did enjoy tearing open the presents with the others. It's a bit of a shame because he does walk all the time."

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