On a recent trip to the local zoo, a man saw and filmed interaction he wasn’t expecting between one of its largest residents and one of the smallest.
Alex Phillips—who uses the Reddit handle BradKfan2—shared his video on the popular site on Wednesday, where it has since received more than 97,000 upvotes.
In the video, a large gorilla is seen gently petting a groundhog in the enclosure. The sweet interaction has delighted viewers who have branded it as a “gem.” One Reddit user said: “This is so wholesome.”
Phillips told Newsweek: “I frequent the zoo and have spent a lot of time around the gorillas, so I’ve seen a decent bit of their behavior. But gorilla interactions with other animals are quite rare and something I’ve never seen. I was super excited to see this in person.”
Gorillas actually share 98.3 percent of their genetic code with humans—making them some of our closest cousins after chimpanzees and bonobos. In the wild, they’re found in only three countries, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Gorillas live in family groups of around five to 10, led by a dominant adult male called a silverback.
Despite living in a diverse area, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse reports that gorillas aren’t very likely to have much interaction with other animals and prefer to keep to themselves. In fact, the only non-primate organisms they are frequently recorded interacting with are insects—and that is usually because gorillas eat them.
Reddit users were delighted by the unusual interaction and headed to the comments to share their thoughts. One commenter wrote: “Oh they’re friends,” and another Redditor said: “I love unlikely animal friendships more than anything in the world.”
“So gentle, yet so powerful. The gorilla is beautiful too,” said one commenter. While another viewer of the viral video said: “They really are gentle giants.”
“Gorillas aren’t necessarily portrayed as friendly animals, and they aren’t something you’d want to approach if—for whatever reason—you came across one in the wild,” said Phillips: “But they can be gentle and they aren’t just built for violence like the media portrays them. I shared this video so others could see a very unique interaction.”
Indeed, there are many stories of gorillas being dangerous, most notably the internet’s favorite primate, Harambe the gorilla. Six years ago when a three-year-old boy climbed into the gorilla exhibit at Cincinnati Zoo, a worker who feared for the child’s safety fatally shot the 17-year-old gorilla prompting a mass online reaction and sparking memes and stories that spread worldwide.
While a 2008 study reported that female western gorillas frequently acted aggressively towards humans, further research published in 2015 found that gorilla attacks on humans in the wild are incredibly rare and usually motivated by a defensive instinct.
“I love this,” wrote one Reddit user: “It shows critters are capable of love and gentleness.” Another comment said: “These amazing creatures shouldn’t be in a zoo.”
One viewer of the video shared their love of the animals and wrote: “Gorillas must be my favorite creatures on earth. They’re practically as smart as us; they’re so much bigger and stronger than us, yet gentle, and they aren’t destroying the earth so in a sense, they are smarter than us.”