February 16, 2010

Bringing Back Bobo

Over the weekend, the Seattle Times' Pacific Northwest Magazine published an article examining the long-standing mystery and controversy surrounding Bobo the beloved gorilla, who lived at the Woodland Park Zoo from 1951 to 1968. The Burke has an ongoing arrangement with the Woodland Park Zoo to provide a home for zoo animals that have died, so following Bobo’s death in 1968, his skeletal remains were donated to the UW and became part of the mammal collection at the Burke.

For many years, Bobo’s skull was inexplicably missing from the rest of his skeleton. In 2007, Bobo’s skull was finally returned to the Burke Museum after being gone for decades. Read Fred Moody’s thoroughly-researched and well-crafted report about what happened here and then come pay your respects to Bobo the beloved gorilla, whose skull is on display at the Burke Museum now through April 25.

Bobo's skeletal remains are of value to the Burke, as a natural history museum, for many reasons. Bobo's bones hold a valuable record of the genetic signature of wild gorillas in 1951. His DNA could be compared with gorillas of today to answer questions about changes in gorilla populations or genetics. Also, UW students have used Bobo's skeleton for decades while studying human fossils, evolution, and paleontology.

Bobo's taxidermied skin is also currently on display at the Museum of History and Industry.