Rare Footage Captured By Robot Baby Gorilla Shows Giant Apes Singing While They Eat

Gorillas have long been studied by scientists ever since we discovered the process of evolution. Now, researchers have found that certain mountain gorillas like to “sing” during their dinner, a behavior that’s never been observed before from the species. The group of researchers were able to capture footage of this weird ritual using a robot “spy” that was designed to look like a baby gorilla. 

The “singing gorillas” made their television debut this week as a part of the PBS special “Nature: Spy in the Wild 2.” This was the second installment of the “Spy in the Wild” series from PBS, and like its 2017 predecessor, this special gave audiences an intimate insight into “elusive wildlife behavior, seen through the eyes of robots that look like the creatures they film.” Gorillas weren’t included in the original installment of the series, so researchers were astounded to see how much the robot gorilla captured on film; including an intense amount of interaction with the “baby” from the other gorillas. 

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Scientists in 2016 obtained an audio recording of mountain gorillas “singing” as they eat, but they’ve never had an actual visual of the behavior the gorillas are exhibiting while singing. What they learned back then was that older gorillas were always more inclined to perform at dinnertime, while younger gorillas observed.

Those scientists also were able to derive that males sang more often than females, and only performed while eating aquatic plants and seeds, as opposed to insects. After those conclusions, scientists hit a dead end in terms of where to go next, since they only had an audio recording to work off of. It was this research, amongst other things, that inspired the team from PBS to include gorillas in the next installment of their “Spy in the Wild” series. 

“Eye communication is very important amongst gorillas. You’ll see in the footage in the first episode; the gorillas came straight over to our spy gorilla and peered right into its eyes. So we made sure that the gorilla had the most amount of detail put into the face. We sometimes have to anoint them in feces to allow them to be accepted into the group, it’s not the most pleasant of jobs,” said  “Spy in the Wild 2” producer Matt Gordon.

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The hardest challenge, according to Gordon, was getting the gorilla robot to pass an inspection from one of the dominant males in the gorilla troop. To display submissiveness, Gordon and his team had the robot avoid any “eye contact” with the male, which convinced him that the young gorilla robot wasn’t a threat, which led to the rest of the troop coming to take a closer look at the baby. 

“A young gorilla came over and did the natural thing for him, which was to beat its chest. For a baby gorilla, that means ‘I want to play,’ and if our gorilla was lifeless, not moving, I think the gorilla would have lost interest. But our spy gorilla was able to beat its chest too,” Gordon said.

Other episodes within the “Spy In the Wild 2” series follow groups of seals in South Africa, polar bears in Norway, and even tiny hummingbirds in Mexico. New episodes air on Wednesdays, until May 20th, at 8 p.m. on PBS, so check your local listings today!


Dozens Of Animals Killed In New Year’s Eve Fire At Krefeld Zoo

Germany is mourning the loss of dozens of wildlife animals who were peacefully sleeping in their enclosures at the Krefeld Zoo when a fire began early New Year’s Day. The fire initially hit the monkey enclosure at the zoo located in northeast Germany, but other animals in surrounding exhibits were also affected. 

“Our Monkey House fell victim to a fire that started more or less around midnight. We don’t know exactly when it started, but it burned down the house completely. At least 30 animals died, it was the hardest day that Krefeld Zoo has ever had. For us it is especially tragic that the tenants of this house, birds and mammals, were victims of the fire last night. Among them were highly endangered monkeys like orangutans from Borneo, lowland gorillas from Central Africa and chimpanzees from West Africa,” Zoo director Wolfgang Dressen told reporters. 

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Two chimpanzees, which have grown to become mascots for the zoo, named Bally and Limbo did survive and only suffered slight injuries. They, and every other animal who survived and suffered from injuries, are being treated by veterinarians. 

According to the Krefeld Zoo’s official statement on Facebook, the zoo’s famous Gorilla Garden was also spared from the flames. The zoo intends on being closed through the weekend at least, but isn’t giving up in terms of rehabilitation and rebuilding the zoo that so many cherish. 

The investigation behind how the fire began is still underway, but with a solid indication as to what they think the cause was, and a new confession from a mother and her daughters, the investigation may be short lived. 

Krefeld Police investigator Gerd Hoppmann was initially assigned to the case, and told the media earlier this week that “witnesses had spotted sky lanterns flying close to the zoo and very low, so we can assume they fell on the ground in this area.”

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North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is the German state that the zoo is located in. In NRW lanterns have been banned for the past decade, as they pose an obvious fire hazard; the punishment is a fine up to $1,121 (1,000 Euros).

Luckily, individuals were devastated when they heard about all of the innocent wild animal life that was lost to an otherwise preventable accident, so much so that several individuals actually turned themselves in, stating that they set off paper lanterns on New Years Eve and could’ve been responsible for the tragedy. 

The lead suspects right now are a 60-year-old mother and her two adult daughters, whose names and information have been kept confidential until an official conclusion to the case is met. The mother and her daughters were amongst the several individuals who turned themselves in for illegally using lanterns on New Years Eve, and claimed that they heard about the fire on the local radio, according to Hoppmann.

Hoppmann also said in a recent statement that the suspects “seemed like sensible and responsible people who had shown courage in coming forward. Local prosecutors are now investigating the women for negligent arson, a crime that can be punished by up to five years in prison.”

Following this preventable tragedy, the German animal protection association has officially called for a legal ban of all types of fireworks and fire displays near any zoos, farms, and kennels. Throughout the week citizens have been supporting the animal protection association and honoring the innocent lives that were lost. Visitors have brought flowers, plush toys, pictures, and candles that they left at a memorial at the entrance of the zoo.