Bobo's Fifth Birthday

  • By Claudia Lowman-Miles
  • Posted 4/11/2006
  • Essay 7451

Bobo (1951-1968) was a beloved gorilla who for 15 years entertained visitors to the Great Ape House at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo. Before moving to the zoo, Bobo lived with a human family. Bobo's human sister, Claudia Lowman-Miles of Houston, Texas wrote this reminiscence of Bobo's fifth birthday party, held in July 1955 at Woodland Park Zoo.

Bobo's Birthday Party

I remember the occasion -- Bobo's birthday party at the zoo. Here I am (see photo) with a cake for Bobo. Actually, Stan Boreson brought the cake and Stan and his cameraman wanted some good footage for Stan's kids' show but Bobo was much more interested in his "family" who had come to visit than in a cake.

When Stan saw that he and the cake weren't as interesting to Bobo as Bobo's human family, he decided the best way was to get the family involved with the cake. Here I am bringing the cake to Bobo. He is still more interested in being close to us at this point, wanting me to play with him. (That's my grandpa, Ray Lowman, to the left.) Finally, (after this photo was shot) I put my finger into the frosting to give Bobo a taste so he would take more interest (he did like sweet things).

Bringing him the cake worked enough to get the birthday photos and footage the media folks sought. In another photo that was in one of the Seattle newspapers, he actually had his nose up to the cake, checking it out. (The olfactory sense is more developed in gorillas as a reliable sense than we humans seem to employ.) What I don't remember is what happened to the cake after the presentation to him. Very likely Bobo was "hands on" and it was destroyed, which I am sure was a delight to the kids watching from outside the glass.


Claudia Lowman-Miles was Bobo's human sister.

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