TAMPA (FOX 13) - Seeing zoo animals for the first time is one of the best parts of being a kid, and many Bay Area children make some of their best memories with the creatures at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
A FOX 13 News viewer shared a photo of one such moment between her daughter, 9-year-old Emily, and a gorilla named Belingo. Emily agreed to tell FOX 13's Lloyd Sowers about her encounter with the gentle giant.
In the photo, girl and gorilla hold their hands together through the glass.
Emily smiled when she talked about what happened.
"He looked at me and I just put my hand up on the glass," she said. "Then he put his hand up and started tapping like he was trying to interact with me and I was just, 'woo!'"
Emily said it was a huge thrill. This was not her first time seeing the gorillas at Busch Gardens. She actually knows several of them by name. But on this day, Emily said Belingo seemed to pick her out of a crowd of other visitors who were watching.
It's almost as if he knew that Emily's favorite things in the world are animals.
"I love cheetahs," she smiled, showing off the lanyard holding her prized possession, an annual pass to Busch Gardens.
She said she wants to help animals now and for the rest of her life. She hopes to become a veterinarian.
"I want to help them if they have something hurt or if they're cut, or something's broken.
She just might be able to get a recommendation from an old friend who saw something special in a little girl through the glass at Busch Gardens.