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Watch: Bolingo the Gorilla 'dances' with his trainer at Busch Gardens

Bolingo the Gorilla mimics his trainers movements during a training exercise. Trainer Rachel Hare said that these exercises keep Bolingo mentally and physically stimulated. [Photo from video]
Bolingo the Gorilla mimics his trainers movements during a training exercise. Trainer Rachel Hare said that these exercises keep Bolingo mentally and physically stimulated. [Photo from video]
Published Apr. 12, 2018

Could Bolingo and Rachel Hale be the next Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers?

The only thing standing in their way, it seems, is that Bolingo is a gorilla who does his best moves behind a glass wall.

A video posted on the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Facebook page on Wednesday showed the kind of training and development programs Bolingo goes through on a weekly basis.

His dance partner, Rachel Hale, is a 28-year-old animal care specialist who has been working with Bolingo for about three years.

The gorilla is seen on the video mimicking Hale's every move and interacting with her behind a glass enclosure.

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Hale demonstrates exercises that she says help build trust and positive relationships with the animals. They also help stimulate the gorilla mentally and physically.

She said this is only one facet of a massive animal training program, the scope of which encompasses the rest of the park's menagerie.

"We engage all of the animals at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay with a wide variety of behaviors that continually enhance their mental and physical well-being as well as enable them to voluntarily participate in their own medical care," Hale said. "A special enrichment I am working on currently with Bolingo is to teach him how to choose between colors or shapes."

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Bolingo is one of seven gorillas on public display at the park. Hale has been working primarily with gorillas and chimpanzees. What she enjoys the most about Bolingo, she said, is his personality and charm.

"He is often times goofy, energetic and intelligent and because of this, my goal each and every day is to find new ways to keep him engaged," Hare said. "He's picky about what interests him, so the session that you are seeing in the video is me having to think outside the box for new ideas.

"Working with him truly pushes me to become a better animal specialist and caregiver. Our relationship is very special and there is nothing better than seeing Bolingo sprint across the habitat for an enrichment session with me. That will never grow old."

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