Yakini: a good internet story
It’s the picture that will never get old. In the past few days on Twitter this photo duo has been doing the rounds with this caption: “A newborn baby gorilla at Melbourne Zoo gets a checkup at the hospital and shows surprise at the coldness of the stethoscope.”
It’s not hard to see why people want to share this. Many of us are seeing it for the first time, but it was taken just after the birth of Yakini in November 1999. Why it’s cropped up on social media in the last 24 hours isn’t clear.
The Punch spoke to Herald Sun photographer David Caird, who took these and probably thousands of other pictures of Yakini, over a six-month period when the baby gorilla was being hand-raised after a very difficult birth.
Caird said he spent so much time with Yakini, who know lives in a cushy new “bachelors” enclosure at the Werribee Open Range Zoo in Victoria, that the bub got to know him.
“I took a picture of him one day and he had his hands up towards me. I didn’t realise until I looked at the photo that had his hands like he was holding a camera, with his left finger on the button. He was mimicking me.”
Caird went on to publish two books of photos of Yakini, and last saw him during a visit to Werribee for the gorilla’s 12th birthday.
“I’m actually going to shoot gorillas right now, it’s spooky”, Caird said, when I told him Yakini was the flavour of the day on Twitter.
“Who knows why these things go off. These pictures were taken in a early-internet age, before social media. If you haven’t seen something before when you see it for the first time you think it’s new.
“Suddenly everything that’s old is new again.”
Melbourne Zoo spokeswoman Judith Henkey told The Punch:
“Yakini was born on Nov 28, 1999. His mother Yuska is still here at Melbourne Zoo, but Yakini, his father Motaba, and half-brother Ganyeka moved down to our sister zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo, last year, into a beautiful new bachelor group exhibit.
“Yakini is also the half-brother of the first gorilla ever born in Australia, Melbourne Zoo’s Mzuri, born in 1984 – same mother, different father.”
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