The viral video of a 300-pound gorilla cuddling and carrying around an 18-month-old blonde (human) toddler creates a lot of mixed emotion for a mom. Yes, part of me that is full of stuffed animal anthropomorphic baby-talk smiles. Kumbaya.
But a larger part of me – straight from my ancestral primal fight or flight ooze – says: “Remember ‘Grizzly Man’!”
The 22-year-old video (and it looks every bit its 22 years) features Tansy Aspinall, the daughter of Aspinall Foundation chairman Damian Aspinall, playing with a lowland gorilla. The foundation, which did not return a Monitor call, runs wildlife preserves in England and Mr. Aspinwall apparently had never released the videos because of their controversial potential; but he reportedly has now done so to help raise money for conservation and to show how gentle the beasts are.
It's great to raise money for conservation. And great, even, to show what gorillas are like – but, seriously, these are no gorillas in the mist. But, why do this now? It has the whiff of some sort of desperation. And it may or may not bite the foundation back: An NBC Today Show online poll suggests that 85 percent think the video – which shows little Tansy fearlessly romping in a straw-covered enclosure with an ape – is an example of “irresponsible parenting.”
The Aspinalls have defended their family tradition of playing with gorillas that are part of their conservation program in England, suggesting that if you’re brought up with gorillas, and you’re part of the family group, it is not risky behavior.
Our daughter was raised in our “family group” which has included a couple of loyal Australian cattle dogs (yes, echos of “The dingo ate my baby.”) And I know a dog is not an ape. But you gotta think twice about how much trust you put in any animal with your kid. When my daughter was a toddler, the dogs responded to some of her more irritating behavior like any human sister or brother would have: snarls and nips.
I won’t second-guess the Aspinalls family tradition – Tansy did make it to adulthood.
But what do you think?