GUY THE GORILLA | PHOTOGRAPH BY ARTHUR STEEL | THE ARTHUR STEEL ARCHIVE

GUY THE GORILLA

THE WATERMARK AND THE SIGNATURE ON THE IMAGE WILL NOT BE PRESENT ON AN ORIGINAL PRINT

DESCRIPTION: GUY THE GORILLA STARES INTO ARTHUR STEEL’S CAMERA

LOCATION / YEAR: LONDON ZOO, 1972     COLLECTION: PLATINUM

He arrived at the zoo on 5 November 1947, Guy Fawkes night, hence his name. He was a tiny baby, weighing just 23 lb (10 kg) and holding a small tin hot-water bottle.Guy was the replacement for the zoo’s previous gorilla, Meng, who died in 1941. Guy was captured in the French Cameroons on behalf of Paris Zoo and was traded for a tiger from Calcutta Zoo. It was organized that London Zoo would have Guy. The Paris Zoo Director sent instructions to their game department in West Africa to find a suitable female to mate with him.

London sent a request to a variety of animal dealers and zoos worldwide to find a mate, and in 1969 the zoo was offered Lomie, a five year old female who had been living in nearby Chessington Zoo. She lived in the old Monkey House in London Zoo for a year before being introduced to Guy. When the new Ape and Monkey House, the Michael Sobell Pavilion, was opened in 1971, Guy and Lomie were finally introduced. However, after 25 years of isolation, it was too late; they never produced any offspring.

Lowland gorillas are the world’s largest primates. Males can weigh between 140 and 275 kg. His dimensions as silverback were measured in 1966 and 1971: he weighed 520 lb (240 kg), was 5 ft 4 in (1.63 m) tall, and had an arm span of 9 ft (2.7 m). His upper arm had a circumference of 23.5 in (58 cm), his thighs 28 in (70 cm), and his neck 36 in (90 cm).

His appearance was fearsome, yet his nature was very gentle; when small birds flew into his cage, he reportedly lifted them up on his hands and examined them softly.This gentleness is said to have been a major part of his great popularity.

Guy died aged over 30 years, in 1978 of a heartattack during an operation on his infected teeth. By this time he had become an icon. Public awareness of animal behaviour had been growing, thanks to the ever-improving natural history programmes on television, while studies of wild apes by scientists like Jane Goodall, Biruté Galdikas and Diane Fossey were changing the public’s attitude towards primates.

Guy remains one of London Zoo’s most memorable former inhabitants.

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