I see him from across a crowded room. There are others who see him too. They all appear as mesmerised by him as I. This does not surprise me. He is marvellous, and is deep in thought.I wonder if he is aware of all the attention, of all the eyes that fix on him. I suspect he is and that this is all too regular an occurrence. This makes me both sad and intrigued. Is this a life of captivity?
The glass that separates us is surprisingly welcome as it serves to protect us both. In its reflection I can also see the others who surround me and marvel at you too. I hope they appreciate you being here as much as I do and that it isn't taken for granted.
You start to eat and I watch for a while. I can tell that food is important to you. Food is important to me too.
Reluctantly I step away and walk outside. There's your extended family, busily going about their daily lives in this strange home from home for you all. I see a family member much smaller than you contentedly gathering shoots of leaves without the slightest bit or urgency. Some distance behind him I see a child clinging on to a mother, it looks hungry and needy as most children that age often do.The male I saw two moments ago approaches them - he's the father perhaps? - and he brings food which the mother shares between herself and her child. He then leaves to eat alone around a nearby corner. It is executed as a truly natural and animal way of life, yet it could be human too. I move away to a separate enclosure and see more life. These animals too must surely be your distant relatives, as am I, of course. They are smaller but just as beautifully black and just as animated and alive, if less deep in thought.In the far corner a group are deep in discussion. I have nothing to base my theory on but I think they are all men and have convened to discuss something of pressing importance. I watch them as they stay close and almost orderly as though they are in a business meeting, seated around a table. I look for the natural leader, maybe it's him, or him? There is one who sits more elevated than the rest. It must be him. Oh, but what about that fella perched on the tree above? He's positioned even higher; could he be the leader? Is that how it works for chimpanzees?Away from them and by a small water stream one sits alone. Looking heart wrenchingly alone my instinct is to reach out to him as though he was intentionally excluded from the all-important meeting taking place 50 metres away. My second thought is that maybe he just wants a little alone time, because we all crave alone time every now and again.Of all the things I saw at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, the gorillas and chimpanzees and their unspoken stories stayed with me. This seems bizarre when there were kangaroos, koalas and other native animals rarely seen away from Australia's shores in the zoo, but that's how it was for me. I've never been one to consider seeing wild animals in their natural habitat, but it's crossed my mind more than once since my visit to Taronga in January that it would be truly special to see gorillas and chimpanzees at home in the wild.
You see, there you go again, Travel, changing my mind, my ideas and my interests. You never fail to amaze me.
Oh and Travel, please don't stop doing this. Ever.
Frances M. Thompson
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