VIA| On a normal day in the Jersey Zoo in 1986, little Levan Merritt was enjoying the sights of the gorillas, until the most unexpected happened.  5-year old Merritt slipped of the rail, and fell 30 feet below into the gorilla enclosure, and was knocked unconscious.

What happened next was the real wonder though, as a large gorilla named Jambo (pronounced Yambo), quickly scurried over to Levan, and protected him from the rest of the pack.  When Levan finally gained consciousness and started to move, Jambo then herded the rest of the pack back into the cave to further protect Levan from harm.

Merritt on his wedding day with his wife, Amanda


Jambo the gorilla

What was most remarkable was that the entire incident was filmed on a £1,300 Sony CCD-V8 by Brian Le Lion, which at the time was a very high-end camera to carry around.

The incident has had a strong impact on Merritt’s life as he has matured and grown up, and now, many years later, Merritt is sharing his experiences with the world and speaking out how integral that day was in the formation of his life.

Merritt now has a special place in his heart for animals.  Taking the image away from gorillas as big mean monsters as portrayed in King Kong is important to him.   Merritt often looks back to that fateful day, and reflects on how thankful he is for such a kind gesture from the gorilla.  Merritt states that, ‘I am forever thankful to Jambo as obviously it could have gone one or two ways. It was amazing how he protected me in that way’.

Merritt has had a strong connection with the zoo ever since.  He has re-visited the location over 10 times, and has had the pleasure of cutting the ribbon to the 20th anniversary of the park.

The incident also had some negative effects on Merritt, as throughout his early school education he was bullied and called names like ‘Tarzan’ and ‘gorilla boy’.  These names never phased Merritt, as he remembers the incident with pride, and loves telling family about it from time to time.

Merritt now lives with his loving wife, Amanda with his two children, Leo and Riley.  Merritt says that he wants to give his children the same connection that he feels with animals that he has grown up with, because he feels it is so important in shaping who you become as a person.


Check out the video below of the rescue to see it in action!

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