“Tale as old as time / True as it can be / Barely even friends / Then somebody bends / Unexpectedly …”
Change the word “bends” to “swipes” in the “Beauty and the Beast” song lyrics above and you’d have the story of Lindsey Costello and Jelani the Gorilla.
“You’re not allowed to have any animals in a training facility — or at a training command, being a student,” said Costello. “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?’ ”
Indeed, that is exactly where the magic happened.
As seen in her Instagram post above, Costello took this zoo visit as an occasion to become more intimately acquainted with the animals.
“When I walked into the gorilla exhibit … I looked and I saw this lady holding a phone and the gorilla was right there next to her, watching it,” Costello told WDRB.
The first woman offered to let Costello in on the action, handing her the phone to use and then snapping Costello’s photo with Jelani. (Costello’s friend saw the pic on Instagram and Facebook, then asked her if he could share it on Reddit. The rest is history.)
“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.”
RELATED VIDEO: PEOPLE’s Pet Vet + an Instagram-Famous Owl = A Video You’ll Want to Watch
As it turns out, Jelani, an 18-year-old Western Lowland gorilla, already has a reputation for interacting with zoo visitors.
“He loves to look at cell phone videos interacting with the public and a lot of times if you show him a video, he’ll come over and hang out,” Jill Katka, the Assistant Mammal Curator at the Louisville Zoo, told WDRB in 2015. “When he is bored with the picture, he’ll shake his hand, sometimes look away and he’s very clear when it’s time to move on to the next one. He really prefers pics of animals and especially of apes and monkeys. He also likes to look at pictures of people.”
None of the other gorillas seem to have the same tech fascination; Jelani is special.
According to her Instagram post, Costello entertained Jelani with a video of a baby gorilla. “If you stay on a video for too long, or like a picture for too long, and he wants to go to the next one, he’ll raise up his arm and swipe it over,” she said.
As Costello further commented on Instagram (where she surely has found a whole new fanbase of like-minded animal lovers), “It was such an amazing experience for me and I’m so blessed I got to share some happiness around the world! God bless.”