Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bokito Bezerk! Gorilla Goes Gonzo Again!

(photo:mrs. jolanda)

This is certainly the way to sell newspapers.

But was that banner headline and massive spread on the front page of Saturday's edition of De Telegraaf a tad too tabloid?

Bokito escaped from the Rotterdam Zoo in May and mauled a woman who was convinced she had a psychic connection with the ape. She had spent hours staring at him from behind the glass-walled indoor part of his enclosure, which primate experts say the 400-pound gorilla interpreted as provocation.

When a tiger got out and killed a young man in San Francisco last week, De Telegraaf decided it needed to do a follow-up story on Bokito.

The teaser:

"The Gorilla Bokito went crazy again when he saw his victim Yvonne de Horde for the first time after his escape at Rotterdam's "Happy Village Animal Nursery" in May. The woman, from Zoetermeer, has now had two meetings with the silverback since the attack."

The story quoted De Horde's husband describing the first meeting between Yvonne and Bokito.

Bokito "went completely crazy. He ran outside and Yvonne was in a panic, scared to death that he would attack her again. She wanted only one thing, and that was to flee the zoo as fast as possible. She squeezed my hand very hard with her broken fingers, but because of the adrenaline, she didn't even feel the pain."

-Gerrit de Horde, as quoted by De Telegraaf.

According to the story, her psychologist had recommended that she confront her attacker, but "in retrospect it wasn't such a good idea," De Horde said.

The story didn't mention when this all happened, but I think we can safely say it wasn't recently.

Later Saturday, zoo director Ton Dorresteijn confirmed the woman did return to the zoo twice, but gutted the rest of the Telegraaf story.

"It's possible that she caught a glipse of his back, but Bokito definitely hasn't seen her, much less gone crazy," Dorresteijn said, adding that
"This is really a canard, a straight-up monkey business story."

Bokito's quarters were altered after the escape, making it impossible for him to see people in the inside part of his enclosure. They can't make eye contact with him anywhere, and can only see him directly from outside, across a great distance.


De Telegraaf decided to brazen it out in their Sunday edition: they didn't publish any correction. Instead they made a short acknowledgement of Dorresteijn's contradiction and stood by their story. They made the (justifiable) counter-accusation that Dorresteijn had tried to downplay the gravity of Bokito's initial escape back in May.

In addition, they ran a new story repeating their version of events, and asking psychologists what they thought of it all.

"The concept that new confrontation is good for working through a trauma is a false one," said Jeffery Wijnberg, house psychologist for De Telegraaf. "It's a simplistic way of looking and the phenomenon of trauma processing. She went back to (Bokito), but the danger hadn't receded. Her fear that he could escape again and get at her, is definitely not irrational. It can happen. They said it couldn't happen the first time and it did."

(another swipe at Dorresteijn).

He questioned whether it was even necessary for her to 'get over' her trauma.
"Because of Bokito's earlier attack she has developed a strong reflex to stay away from dangerous animals ... it would be a good idea for her to avoid zoos and to develop a new hobby," he said.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be nice to link back to the URL the pictures are from?