The Hero Jambo

Jambo, "A magnificent individual, courteous and gentle" Gerald Durrell

© Gerald Durrell

Jambo, Jersey Zoos world famous and much loved silverback gorilla had a truly remarkable life. He was born in Basle Zoo in Switzerland in 1961. He arrived at Jersey Zoo on the 27th April 1972. Jambo, Swahili for Hello, is perhaps better known to the public for the gentleness he displayed towards the little boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure at Jersey Zoo one afternoon in 1986. The dramatic event hit the headlines and helped dispel the myth of gorillas as fearsome and ferocious.

It was a busy Sunday afternoon in August 1986 when an incredulous public witnessed Levan Merritt a small boy from Luton UK fall into the Gorilla enclosure at Jersey Zoo.

The initial response of the Gorillas to the appearance of a child in their enclosure was to investigate. Jambo was first on the scene followed by Nandi, his favourite female.

There were cries of anguish as Jambo decended the grassy slope toward the small unconscious figure.

Meanwhile Nandi and Jambo had been joined by the rest of his family. Then the adventurous Rafiki got to close and Jambo deliberately placed himself between the boy and his inquisitive family. It was a gesture clearly understood by all of them "Do not touch". Everyone was shouting "Oh my God" get away you brute but Jambo just reached down and touched the boys pale skin then sniffed his fingers testing for scent. Shortly after Levan began to regain consciousness and began to cry. The crowd were shouting Don't move, keep quiet, lie still.

Jambo, who had controlled the situation from a few paces of the little boy, suddenly raised himself on all fours, looked up at the shouting crowd and then made a hasty retreat toward the Gorilla house followed by his females.

The departure of Jambo and his family however was not the end of it, as the doors closed on the silverback, Hobbit, an unrelated seven year old male escaped from the Gorilla house. Hobbits' boisterous ways caused an even greater threat than the rest of the group put together. One of the keepers went in and kept Hobbit at bay until rescuers finally got Levan to safety.

But Jambo who most people were quick to credit young Levans survival was in the Gorilla house quietly enjoying a bonus feed of fruit and vegetables.

This story of Jambo hit the international headlines. Addressed simply to Jambo letters and cards of admiration and congratulations flooded in from all over the world. Boxes of bananas arrived along with other gifts plus numerous requests for autographed photographs of the anthropoid.

Jambo was found dead on the 16th September 1992.

Source: Jambo, A Gorillas Story Author Richard Johnstone Scott ©1995 Michael O'Mara Books Ltd - contribution by Win Walker


Jambo - Adult Male Lowland Gorilla  (Old  Jersey Zoo Guide picture © DWCT/Jersey Zoo)

 


"... browsing the net and came across the page dedicated to jambo when l was in jersey back in 1980s l went to see him ( just after the  little boy incident ) I waited 45 mins to get this shot and he had just woke up from a midday snooze l have  this photo on facebook and friends reunited telling his story in brief, he was and is a hero"

© John Catterall  Salford  johncatterall@tiscali.co.uk



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