THE Thivillons have been caring for Digit the gorilla for more than a decade, but having a primate at home throws up some unlikely problems.

In a village near Lyon in south-east France, a couple have become local celebrities by virtue of their adopted “child”.  Digit, as she is known, has been living in the same room as Pierre and Elaine Thivillon for nearly 13 years. Their relationship began in 1999, when the young primate came into the care of the couple, who manage the zoo at Saint Martin la Plaine where she was born.

Within three days of her birth, it was clear that Digit’s mother Pamela was refusing to feed her. The Thivillons took her into their care, bottle-feeding her during the day and returning her to her enclosure at night. By 18 months old, the baby gorilla had begun to show a deep attachment to her foster parents. After an illness left her requiring 24-hour care, Pierre and Elaine took her into their bedroom at night, where she has slept ever since. For the first 10 years, she snuggled up between the couple, but now at 130kg (287lbs) she has to have a bed of her own.

Although she has free reign of the couple’s small apartment, during the day she rambles around her enclosure which is next door. “I don’t go in there as it’s Digit’s home,” says Elaine, acknowledging the young teenager’s right to privacy.      –BBC

“Only Pierre is allowed in there.”

Having a gorilla in the family is not without its problems.

“This morning I brought four raisin buns for our breakfast,” says Pierre. “When I had my back turned she managed to finish four of them before I could save one. Then she turned her attention to Elaine’s coffee.”

“She loves chocolate,” says Elaine, and sometimes she will drink an entire cup of coffee in search of the little sweet Elaine dunks in there.

The couple, who have no children, are often asked if they consider Digit as their daughter.

“I wouldn’t say we see her as our child as such, but she is someone who is very dear to me,” explains Elaine.