Julia the Gorilla, My Best Friend

JULIA THE GORILLA, MY BEST FRIEND: In this photo, I am playing with Julia the Gorilla, and my brother, Tercelin.  We were living in the Gambia at the time, while my parents worked on an article on Julia for National Geographic Kids.  Julia, a three year old lowland gorilla, had been saved from poachers who had attacked her community and killed her mother.

She was thereafter raised in the Abuko Nature Reserve of the Gambia. At the time that my parents worked on their article, Julia was being rehabilitated to be returned to the wild. I was only four when I met Julia, but I vividly recall spending days frolicking and walking hand in hand through the jungle.

Julia loved teasing and playing jokes.  I remember one day resting with her in her hammock.  She had been eating mango, and happily smothered it all over my dress. She radiated with jubilant excitement at my protests; girly girl that I was, I did not want my pretty dress all gooey!

Julia had a second sense, and knew that she could play rough and tumble with my brother.  With me, she was sweet and gentle, and would get upset with Tercelin if he treated me harshly.  I was her doll, and she was my protector.