When you’re looking for a smile, there’s one area of online videos always guaranteed to bring one to your lips: animals! Whether they’re the cats and dogs we call family or more exotic creatures in the wild, you can always count on animals to bring the funny and inspire awe.
The best animal moments, though, have got to be the ones that are a little bit of both— super amusing, and yet a little bit incredible, too. Fitting perfectly into this slice of creature features are those animals whose behavior seems a little more human and a little less wild.
Which brings us to gorillas.
If you managed to stay awake during science class back in the day, then you’ll probably remember that on the big family tree of the animal kingdom, humans are more closely related to the “great apes” than to any other taxonomic family of animals. In fact, we share about 99 percent of our DNA with bonobos and chimpanzees, and about 98 percent with gorillas.
Even knowing this these facts, however, doesn’t change the reaction to the behavior of one gorilla in particular: the 27-year-old silverback at the Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent, England, part of the Aspinall Foundation You might know him better as Ambam.
Ambam shot to viral fame a few years ago, in 2010, when a video of him exhibiting some behavior worthy of any homo sapien became super-popular on YouTube. What was Ambam doing in this video? Oh, just walking around— fully upright on his hind legs.
This habit isn’t just impressive because of Ambam’s intimidating height when he stands up straight and stretches to the full extent of six feet. No, it’s impressive because that 2 percent difference in DNA between gorillas and people usually accounts for our special human abilities, like speech and bipedal stance— i.e., the fact that we stand and walk on only two legs, not four.
It’s not that gorillas can’t be bipedal; it’s that walking on four legs is a more advantageous stance for them, especially when traveling over long distances. Simply put, most gorillas don’t like walking on their hind legs.
Ambam, however, is an incredible exception. More often than not, the unique gorilla can be observed “strutting” about his enclosure at the Port Lympne Reserve. According to Live Science, “Zookeepers say he does it to see over his confine’s walls, and to carry large amounts of food.” But why?
According to Indiana University anthropologist and Human Origins and Primate Evolution Lab director Kevin Hunt, it could be behavior Ambam learned from his father, who Hunt postulates was kept as a pet. Hunt told Live Science:
“It’s not unusual for chimps and gorillas to stand up, but they don’t usually walk very far,” he told us. “If this gorilla was a pet when he was young, he may have learned to walk upright to sort of copy the humans around him.”
Apparently, Ambam’s father walked on two legs a lot, too. Hunt says Ambam’s father could have started life as a pet and learned to be bipedal, then Ambam could have learned the behavior from him. “Or it could be a weird personality quirk that he inherited genetically,” Hunt adds.
So cool and fascinating! To see Ambam walk about for yourself, check out the video below.
Have you ever see a gorilla or another great ape exhibit behavior like this before? What do you think accounts for Ambam’s proclivities? Have an of you ever visited the reserve in Kent? Tell us what you think!