Earlier this month at the Dutch Rotterdam Zoo, an eleven year old male gorilla named Bokito escaped and ran rampant through the Zoo’s food court, injuring a woman when he bit and dragged her some distance. Now, health insurance company FBTO is distributing eye-contact disguising glasses that allow zoo visitors to stare all they like, a behavior that is threatening to most of the great apes.
A boon to the shy, the voyeuristic, and anyone who wants to look pensive or, frankly, a little weird, the glasses may also be useful to anyone who goes to zoos with sketching in mind.
If you want to draw portraits of great apes, you have to approach them in the proper way. You can’t just march up to a great ape enclosure and start staring at them, or they’ll get all shy and disgusted and turn their back on you, because staring is a threat to them…
I approached the glass with a submissive posture, looking down at the ground and backing up with my hand out. The gorilla loved it. He had never seen a human act like a polite ape before. He came right up to the glass and posed for me while I did this half-hour portrait from just two feet away. It was like sketching someone on a subway. I tried to just glance at him discreetly out of the corner of my eye.
Hooray for unintended uses! To print and assemble your own ridiculous eye-wear, look no further than this PDF file.
Correction: Bokito actually broke out in 2007, not “earlier this month.” Whoops. Better take these glasses off so you can see that we’re ashamed.