Like all of our orphans, Bobo suffered terrible tragedy as a young gorilla. He witnessed the slaughter of his family for bushmeat and was then taken from the wild and chained, isolated from any other members of his species. Thankfully, in 1999, Bobo was rescued and brought to safety at Ape Action Africa. The chain that had held him had caused a nasty wound around his neck, and the 2-year-old was unsurprisingly traumatised by the ordeal that he had survived.

Bobo received round-the-clock care from our expert team and, when his quarantine period was complete, he was introduced to fellow orphaned gorillas, Kibu and Nkamun. The two young boys had already established a very strong bond with each other and with their primary caregiver, Mr. Alfred Kombele, who continues to work with our young gorilla orphans to this day. Eager to form new relationships, Bobo gained enough confidence to approach Kibu and Nkamun, but Mr Alfred recalls that though the twosome accepted Bobo’s playful advances, in any childhood quarrels it would always remain two against one.

Bobo’s popularity would take a turn for the better when, over the years, female orphans Avishag, Geri and Jasmine joined the group. His calm and gentle nature, and his protective manner with the girls, meant that they backed him up in any disagreements with Kibu and Nkamun. The females had made their decision, and Bobo would be the dominant silverback of this group.

Bobo. © Ape Action Africa / Ian Bickerstaff

Bobo proved to be a fair and respected leader, and in 2007, after a contraception failure, he fathered Eto’o with his favourite female Avishag. Eto’o was raised entirely within his family group (a first for a sanctuary), with Bobo helping to care for him and forming a strong and playful relationship with his son.

Avishag and Eto'o. © Finbar O'Reilly, Reuters/Corbis

Bobo’s caring and gentle nature was shown to the world in 2018, when footage of him with a wild bushbaby went viral. Caregivers found Bobo cradling the tiny primate one morning and the bushbaby showed no fear of Bobo, repeatedly hopping onto the grass and then coming back to the silverback. The other gorillas in the group were curious about their visitor but Bobo protectively kept the bushbaby to himself and, after a couple of hours, returned him to the trees in the enclosure.

These days Bobo is facing a few more challenges to his leadership. Kibu and Nkamun have maintained their close bond and on occasion test Bobo’s authority. Eto’o too is growing up and quite naturally is now less submissive to his father. However, the females remain loyal to their chosen leader and while this continues Bobo’s position is secure.

Bobo. © Ape Action Africa / Ian Bickerstaff

It costs around £5 a day to feed a silverback and we need your help to care for Bobo and more than 280 other rescued apes and monkeys in our forest. The coronavirus pandemic continues to have a huge impact on our income, so if you love what we do, please donate what you can to help us keep our orphans safe in 2021.

Banner image © Ape Action Africa / Ian Bickerstaff

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