• Kyodo


A newly designed pillow based on a famous photogenic gorilla in a Nagoya zoo began online sales in July, earlier than originally planned, after the product became a hit on social media.

The udemakura cushion features a picture of Shabani, a Western lowland gorilla residing in Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Nagoya.

It measures 90 centimeters in width and fits on a single bed. Users can snuggle up to Shabani’s chest and extended left arm. His other arm forms a pocket to hold mobile phones or other accessories.

“Look into his eyes and it’s as if he’s saying he understands all your feelings, no words needed,” said a female employee at e-commerce company Felissimo Corp. who was involved in developing the cushion, which sells for ¥6,300 on the company’s website.

Great care went into creating the gorilla’s pectoral muscles and biceps, while the silver coloring on his fur is testament to his status as the boss of the group of gorillas.

The Kobe-based company put the product on sale July 22, a day earlier than scheduled because it had garnered widespread attention.

Felissimo said it still receives a flood of orders and reservations for the product.

The gorilla was brought to the Japanese zoo from Australia in 2007 and rose to fame in 2015 when people began sharing photos of him via social media.

Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered and protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

People involved in the creation of the Shabani pillow expressed hope that the popularity of the product may raise awareness of the need to ensure the species’ survival.

“In 10 years’ time, there might be fewer zoos in Japan where you’ll see them,” said an official at Higashiyama zoo.

Currently, there are only 20 western lowland gorillas in total in Japan, residing in six different zoos. It is difficult for the species to reproduce in captivity, and its wild population has also been declining.

The official hopes the pillow’s buzz can help promote conservation efforts, saying, “I hope people will come and see these living primates and learn about the situation.”

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