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Meet Levan Merritt.

As a small child, he had an amazing close encounter with a large and potentially deadly animal.

This is his story...
30 August 1986 was just another ordinary midsummer day at Jersey Zoo.

5-year old Levan was on the first day of a holiday with his family. Little did they know that this was one holiday they'd never forget!
Having visited most of the animals in the zoo, Levan spotted the gorilla enclosure, and they went over to take a look.
The perimeter wall around the enclosure was 1m high. This meant that Levan found it hard to see the gorillas inside.

In order to get a closer look, he scrambled up the wall - but lost his footing and fell.
The next few shots are taken from home video footage recorded at the time of the accident.

It shows Jambo, the huge gorilla, heading towards Levan, to the horror of powerless onlookers.
But what happened next was quite amazing - Jambo didn't attack Levan.

He appeared to protect the injured boy from the other gorillas in the group.

He even stroked Levan's back, possibly trying to comfort the unconscious child.
After four minutes, Levan woke up and cried out in pain. The noise startled the gorillas and enabled the keepers to coax them indoors.

This enabled a paramedic to enter the enclosure and administer first aid to Levan.
Seventeen minutes after the ordeal began, Levan was plucked from the enclosure and rushed to hospital.

Jambo's actions touched the hearts of many, and showed that gorillas can be kind, gentle and caring animals.
Sadly, Jambo died in 1992 at the age of 32.

But there's a statue of him at the zoo, so that the memory of this truly brilliant creature will live on for years to come!
Levan's doesn't remember anything about that day because he was so small. But his mum explained that because he was knocked unconscious and didn't move, he didn't pose a threat to the gorillas, which is why they didn't attack.

Also his smell would have been similar to that of a baby gorilla, which is probably why Jambo protected him the way he did.

The Foundation TV Productions Ltd 2001



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