Asked and Answered: A return email to the Milwaukee County Zoo, Part I
The reason I asked you about the gorillas was to jog my memory about a particular gorilla’s name. After some lengthy online research I’m now almost certain that gorilla was Mandara.
Just so you know, I worked at the Milwaukee County Zoo as a laborer in 1984-1985 when Tanga was the boss. Femelle was there too, brought in for companionship. There was also a young gorilla about the size of a five-year old child. (One of the keepers used to get in the cage and wrestle and play with it)
While working one morning before the zoo opened for the day the shift cage passage door was left open on the gorilla exhibit. I was working nearby when “the kid” tossed a stick through the bars and I tossed it back. “The kid” tossed it again (wanted to play) and I tossed it back. The stick was tossed again but this time I just went to hand it back; but instead of taking the stick the young gorilla suddenly reached for my hand (which I quickly withdrew) Then “the kid” reached out through the bars again, but this time, wary of its gripping strength I just gave it a quick, light, open-handed “five”; the strength of which was astonishing.
So I can now say in all honesty “I once shook hands with a gorilla.” This was, for tax purposes, 1984.
If memory serves, Obsus and Quito (both a little older then Mandara) were already too large and dangerous for a zookeeper to climb into the cage with.