OMAHA, Nebraska (PIX11) – A family visit to the gorilla exhibit at an Omaha zoo turned terrifying when a male blackback (a young silverback) charged the group, slamming into the glass barrier Thursday morning.
The only protection from the powerful primate’s fury — the triple-pane safety glass — partially cracked under the impact of the attack.
While the incident sent the family running from the enclosure, Henry Doorly General Curator Dan Cassidy told PIX11 that the gorilla, Kijito, only managed to crack one of the panes and the public was never really in danger.
Kijito is 20 years old, which makes him essentially a rambunctious, older teenager in gorilla years. He has been with the zoo since 1996.
“They have skirmishes throughout the day,” Cassidy said. “One of the ways that they display for each other is to pound on the walls, bang on their chests or run at each other . . . it’s better for an animal to make a display than to actually physically fight the other one.” On the day the video was filmed, there had been some clashes between the gorillas before the family arrived, just before 11:00 a.m.
Some people online speculated that the gorilla may have been provoked by a little girl who can be seen beating her chest as a young boy near her says, “don’t do that.” Cassidy called that an “unlikely” scenario because of the girl’s small stature, but confirmed that a large male human could have been viewed as a threat.
“Their first priority is another gorilla, of course, but they do respond to bigger men who they might see as a rival,” he said. That would confirm what the person who uploaded the video, bulldogg9279 wrote on Reddit:
“He was fighting with one of the other gorillas just before we showed up. He kept looking angrily at me. I probably should not have kept looking at him.”
Also possible, however, is that Kijito was just taking part in a ritual display. Cassidy noted that the glass prevents the gorillas from hearing the zoo visitors, but it does make a noise inside the enclosure — much like pounding on a hollow log in nature.
Officials did not evacuate the zoo after the glass cracked, but did remove all three gorillas so workers could fix plywood over the damaged barrier until the glass company is able to finish the repair.
The video was originally posted to Reddit, and has more than 1 million views on YouTube after bulldogg9279 uploaded it Thursday.