Pierre and Elianne Thivillon don’t have any children. But they do have a 265-pound gorilla.
The couple, both zookeepers, took in Digit 13 years ago, when her biological mother refused to breastfeed. They already had experience working with gorillas, but acknowledge that it’s not an easy job.
New Zealand’s News 3 reports that the couple compares raising Digit to raising a child, in terms of the impact on their social life. There are no more nights out to the movies or restaurants, but they don’t seem to mind.
BBC News reports that during the day, Digit spends her time at the Saint Martin la Plaine Zoo in France. In the evenings, she returns home to her adopted parents, where she enjoys sleeping in their bed.
According to New Zealand’s News 3, the couple also once cared for Digit’s brother, Ginko, but he became aggressive and they had to return him to the zoo. "Life was very difficult a few days after Ginko left. We got used to seeing him everyday. He slept near us, we had breakfast together, we had a good time together and it was a real pleasure. It was very hard to see him go," Pierre told the news organization.
But Digit’s relationship to the couple appears to be quite loving, and video captures Digit hugging Pierre and even planting a kiss on him. As Pierre says, “It’s going very well. We have a 13-year-old relationship with Digit, so obviously we’ve created a very strong bond with each other.”
Although Digit’s story is a unique situation, keeping wild animals in human households can be frowned upon. 17-year-old Felicia Frisco sleeps with a Bengal tiger in her bed, and questions were raised over whether or not the animal should be kept in captivity. Unfortunately though, a handler explained, "There's nowhere for a tiger to live in the wild anymore."
As for gorillas, many are endangered or threatened. For example, mountain gorillas in Central Africa are threatened by the Human Metapneumovirus which causes deadly respiratory diseases in humans and can be passed on to mountain gorillas.