People sometimes think of animals as “dumb” or incapable of real emotions, but time and again we see evidence to the contrary. We hear stories of animals that sense danger and alert humans to it before they can see it. Other times we hear of animals that are able to connect with humans in incredible ways.
That’s the type of encounter Darci Miller had when she went to visit the orangutans at the Indianapolis Zoo.
Darci had been doing yard work and burning trash in her yard when she suddenly became engulfed by the flames. She was rushed to the hospital where she spent nine days in a coma, but miraculously she survived.
When she started to feel a little better, Darci, still covered in bandages, and her fiance, Jason, decided to go to the zoo for some much-needed fun. It was there that Darci met Rocky.
As Darci stood in front of the orangutan enclosure, Rocky broke off from the group he was interacting with and came right up to the window where Darci was standing.
As Jason filmed, Rocky began to point at Darci’s bandages, obviously concerned and curious.
“He was very engulfed in everything I had going on,” Darci said. “It was kind of a guessing game.”
At first, Darci and Jason weren’t sure what Rocky was trying to communicate, but suddenly it all clicked.
“He wants you to show him!” Jason told her. “That’s crazy! He wants to see it.”
As Rocky pointed, Darci began to take off the bandages, showing Rocky the burns on her neck, chest, and arms.
“He was very compassionate, he wanted to see everything that you could show him,” Darci said.
Darci ended up spending 20 minutes with Rocky before heading off to see the rest of the animals.
Unsure if the incredible interaction had been a fluke, Darci decided to go back and see Rocky again before she left the zoo. Sure enough, the sweet orangutan recognized her immediately and came over to see her.
“This day made me feel really good about myself,” Darci said. “I wanted to reach through the glass and give him a big old hug.”
While zookeepers say there is no way to know for sure what was going through Rocky’s head at the time, they did say Rocky is a special ape who loves to interact with all people – even those he doesn’t know. They confirmed he was showing concern for Darci during their interactions.
“Like all orangutans, Rocky is observant and curious,” an Indianapolis Zoo official said in a statement. “Our orangutans eagerly interact and communicate with people they know well, such as their caregivers. Rocky is a bit different. He regularly interacts with people he may not know. The exchange in the video is a great example of this.”
“We can’t say what was going through his mind at the time, but his behavior demonstrates strong interest and concern,” the official added. “There is no doubt that this was an important interaction for him, and his gestures to the woman clearly communicate that.”
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