by Stannie Anderson

This is Max.  He weighs 380 pounds. He does as he pleases.

Max came to live at Topeka Zoo when he was a baby in diapers.  The children who come to Topeka Zoo think Max is wonderful.  He doesn’t do any tricks. But he doesn’t have to do tricks. He is Max, king of the zoo, and he does whatever he wants to do.

Max is a Lowlands Silver-backed gorilla.  He is very strong.  Max has a friend, Tiffany.  She is strong, too, but not as strong as Max.  Sometimes they play a game of running toward each other and trying to knock each other down. Max and Tiffany love that game.

Max and Tiffany have other gorilla friends at the Topeka Zoo. M’wasi is a girl gorilla. Jo Jo is a boy gorilla. Max and Tiffany are best friends.

Children visit Max at Gorilla Encounter. They watch him from a glass-enclosed tunnel. Max wanders out in the grass or takes a nap in his heated cave in the rocks. Tiffany, M’wasi, and Jo Jo climb over the top of the glass tunnel and look down at the children. Max doesn’t climb over the tunnel, or play patty cake. He doesn’t play games like that.

Sometimes, Max waits for a crowd of children to come into the tunnel to watch him.  After a while, Max comes up to the tunnel and KER-BANG! He smashes his big fist against the glass.  The children scream and giggle and run in both directions.  The children love that game. So does Max.  He waits for the children to come back, so he can scare them again with his noise.

When the children go home, Max goes inside to eat his dinner and go to bed. Most children have never seen Max’s indoor home.

Max likes his home very much.  But when he first moved there, he didn’t want to come outside. His keeper used to sit down outside the bars and pretend to eat Max’s fruit.  Max soon joined her and sat down to eat some fruit. But no one tried to make Max go outside. He’s the king of the zoo, and he does as he pleases.

The children came to see Max, but he was inside.

“Where’s Max?” the children asked.

“Max doesn’t want to come out right now,” the zoo docents explained.

One little boy said, “Oh, there’s Max.” He pointed to another gorilla. Then he realized that it wasn’t Max after all. “No, that isn’t Max. Where’s Max?” He pointed to another gorilla.  Then he realized that it wasn’t Max after all. “No, that isn’t Max. Where’s Max?”

The children missed Max. They liked Tiffany, M’wasi and Jo Jo. But most of all they liked Max.

On every side the children asked, “Where’s Max?” Why doesn’t Max come out to see us?”

The docents explained that Max might come out later.  The children were sad, but they knew that Max does what he pleases.

A few hours later Max decided to come out to see his friends. The children laughed and shouted with glee.

Max saw all the children standing beside the glass. He came up to the glass and KER-BLAM! He hit the glass with his big fist. The children screamed and giggled and ran in both directions.

Max wandered away to find and eat some seeds. The children came back to watch him. He didn’t do any tricks.  After all, Max is the king of the zoo, and he does as he pleases.