Why we chose to adopt a baby mountain gorilla for Paradise Lost

Our Adoption Certificate from WWF
Our Adoption Certificate from WWF

If you’ve followed my posts this week, you’ll know that the Basilique Performing Arts Company has adopted Ihoho, a baby mountain gorilla, funded through proceeds from Paradise Lost in Second Life. But what does the mountain gorilla have to do with the story of Adam and Eve?

Despite it being an attractively simple proposition, scientific evidence does not support the idea that human kind was created from dust and that we owe our existence to two original parents that lived roughly 6,000 years ago.

This statement may sound obvious to many, but no less than 46% of Americans still believe in creationism as described in the Bible (Gallup, 2012), so I won’t be taking any chances with my assumptions on this one.

Ihoho on his mother's back
An infant gorilla on his mother’s back

The preponderance of the scientific literature tells a very different story. The story of our origins is an infinitely more complex story. To me, it’s even more wondrous and amazing than the story of Adam and Eve. This is a story of speciation, of natural selection, and evolution involving a multitude of successive generations inheriting genetic characteristics from common ancestors. A clear illustration of this is our kinship with gorillas which goes considerably further than skin deep. These phylogenetic trees are constructed using molecular data, based on similarities and differences between genetic and protein sequences.

The evidence shows that whilst we are not descended directly from apes,  we share a common ancestor that probably lived 5 to 11 million years ago somewhere in Africa. As primates; we, gorillas and us, are on two very close branches of the same genetic tree. We are, in fact, genetic cousins.

Our second closest relatives: Gorillas and their phylogenetic relationship to humans
Our second closest relatives: Gorillas and their phylogenetic relationship to humans

Gorillas are without doubt charismatic animals that serve as a ‘flagship’ species. The mountain gorilla not only attracts public support, but also helps develop and focus attention on its vanishing habitat, benefiting the many other species which depend on it for survival.

Apart from the perilousness of their situation, the plight of the mountain gorillas is very much a contemporary story of a whole species losing their paradise right in front of our eyes. This isn’t ancient myth or remote legend, it’s happening right now. What’s worse, with our gradual encroachment of their extremely sensitive and limited habitat; we are the ones responsible for their expulsion. Similarly we are the only ones that can help them.

Unlike Adam and Eve, mountain gorillas have nowhere else to go. Once their Eden is gone, they’re gone; unless you consider captivity an acceptable alternative. We don’t.

Given the opportunities which we have all been so blessed, we feel it is incumbent upon us to do what we can to help the creatures that cannot speak for themselves.

You have already helped Ihoho, and all the critically endangered mountain gorillas by purchasing a ticket to Paradise Lost. If you’d like to do more tip generously at the performance, donate to the gorillas at the front of the house, sponsor a performance, and tell your friends.

13 thoughts on “Why we chose to adopt a baby mountain gorilla for Paradise Lost

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