Saturday, 2:15 PM
Some not so happy about Little Joe's birthday
(John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/File 2007)
Little Joe attacked a toddler and teenager when he escaped in 2003.
By Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
The fete planned for Little Joe's 16th birthday at the Franklin Park Zoo would drive other apes bananas: door prizes, a jumbo card, and a gorilla-shaped cake from the famed Montilio's bakery.
The party on Monday will kick off school vacation week, falling 10 days after the ape's actual birthday on Feb. 6. The festivities make Little Joe the centerpiece of the zoo's "Go Ape Week." That's what aggravates attorney Donald L. Gibson, who represented a 2-year-old and a teenager after they were clawed and dragged by the gorilla when he escaped in 2003.
"It's very frustrating to see this particular gorilla -- Little Joe -- used as a marketing tool given what happened," Gibson said today after being told of the party.
John Linehan, president of Zoo New England, said today that, "Little Joe was not the focus of a marketing campaign."
"He is celebrating his birthday -- as we do with all of our gorillas," Linehan said, describing the ape as a beloved and recognizable primate admired for his spirit. "We are certainly trying to bring people in to increase empathy for animals. [Birthday parties] build familiarity."
In 2007, a jury awarded Nia Scott and her mother $175,000. Courtney Roberson settled out of court. Neither could be reached today for comment.
Little Joe spent three years out of public view while the zoo built a $2.3 million exhibit space fortified with triple-layered glass and a steel mesh roof. During the civil trial, testimony indicated that the zoo saw a "substantial increase" in attendance after the escape, Gibson said.
"The zoo has essentially been capitalizing on the publicity," he said.