Q&A with Lindsey Costello
Lindsey Costello talks about her meeting with Jelani the social media loving gorilla at the Louisville Zoo.
Q. Describe how all this started. What brought you to the Louisville Zoo?
A. I just spent the last 10 months in training for the military, for my job. So within that you're not allowed to have any animals in a training facility -- or at a training command, being a student. So I just graduated my psyche school, and I went home on leave, and the first thing I wanted to do was I just wanted to be surrounded by animals. Because I love animals so, so much.
So on my last day home I'm like, "Hey, let's go to the Zoo! That's the best place to see animals, right?"
So we went to the Zoo. Yeah, the Louisville Zoo -- it's the best Zoo close to us.
Q. So you'd been to the Louisville Zoo before?
A. Yes, I go about every year.
Q. And what happened in this picture? Describe for us how this all came about.
A. OK. So surprisingly, a lot of people think the phone in my hand is actually my phone -- it's not. When I walked into the gorilla exhibit -- it was me and my brother -- and I looked and I saw this lady holding a phone and the this gorilla was right there next to her, watching it. And as soon as I seen it, I gasped. I'm like, "That's so cool!" And the lady, she appreciated my excitement over it so much that she was like, "Hey, do you want to do this?" And I'm like, "Of course, like, oh my gosh!" So she handed me her phone and I just sat there and I showed it videos. And as I was showing it the videos on her phone -- it was videos of baby gorillas -- she was telling me that if you turn the phone away from him, that he'll stretch out to try to look at it. And I tried it and it actually happened.
And if you stay on a video for too long -- or, like, a picture for too long -- and he wants to to the next one, he'll raise up his arm and swipe it over. So that's pretty how much how it went. And I sat there for about, you know, 15 to 20 minutes, somewhere around there, and I was like, "Well, I've been hogging your phone, let me give you your phone back."
Q. Did it appear to you like the gorilla actually knew you were looking at videos of other gorillas?
A. Yes, but I would definitely say that he knew what he was looking at. Definitely. Even maybe if he, you know, didn't -- I mean I don't know how he would know that it was a gorilla -- but regardless he liked the videos and he liked the pictures. And he could tell when you were swiping or when you were changing it because he would like stretch out his neck to see what you were going to because you weren't showing him nothing. And if he got tired of something he would swipe it over. I mean, they are so smart and intelligent. He knew -- I know he knew.
Q. And what happened after this? I think the original picture was posted to your Instagram?
A. Yes, I posted it to my Facebook and my Instagram, and I had a friend message me, and he said, "I really like the photo, do you mind if I put it on Reddit?" I didn't even know what Reddit was and I was like, "Sure, if you want to." So he did, and that's kind of where it all started.
Q. So Reddit is where was it blew up?
Z. Yes, definitely.
Q. And how soon after you took the photo did it really blow up, and what were the signs that this was getting a lot of attention?
A. So it probably was the next day, I was traveling to my base from home and then my phone just started blowing up, and I'm like, Goodness gracious!" I was in the middle of driving, you know? People were tagging me in a meme that was made out of it. And the next thing you know, I had the guy, he messaged my husband and he messaged me and said, "You're, like, Internet famous now." Yes, so it was like the next day.
Q. And what was the first media call you got?
A. I would say that that started yesterday, probably. I had people asking me on Facebook and Instagram if they could use the photos and I'm like, "Yeah, you know, I'm not going to be like a hog, so of course if people enjoy the photo, put it out there." I'd say that was probably yesterday, maybe the day before.
Q. And since then, I know you've been contacted by national outlets. What shows have you been on?
A. I've had multiple news stations. I had one from Illinois, I think. I had Fox. I had the Daily Mail and the good morning show. There have been multiple state ones, but I wish I could say. Pretty much when someone contacts me and asks to use the photos, I'm like, "Of course you can. Of course." So I try not to get too hung up on who's doing it.
Q. So what's your favorite part about the Louisville Zoo?
A. So my favorite part about the Louisville Zoo, of course, is the gorillas. I really like to see the orangutans as well, and the penguins. I like them all, honestly. I'm not even going to lie, but my favorite would be probably the gorillas, the orangutans, the penguins -- oh, and the hippo! The little penguin hippo! Definitely.
Q. So your new friend -- the gorilla -- he's probably getting lonely at this point. Will you come back and see him?
A. Oh definitely! When I get to come home on leave again, I'll go. I go every year.