Shabani the handsome gorilla – the 2015 meme we went ape for

17 Dec 2015

This handsome gorilla giving us his best Blue Steel is not Shabani, but he's close

Step aside Michiel Huisman. Get out of our way Rutger Hauer. There’s a new Dutch heart-throb on the scene!

A new hot Dutchman grabbed international attention in 2015: Shabani, the handsome gorilla young Japanese women were going ape for.

The globetrotting primate – an 18-year-old silverback – was born in Apenhuel Primate Park, the Netherlands, in 1996. A few short months later, Shabani was taking his first international trip, making his way to Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, where he would spend his formative years.

Then, in 2007, he made the move he was fated to make. The one that would catapult him to global stardom. He was to be the new attraction at the Higashyima Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Nagoya, Japan.

Since then, Shabani has become something of a sensation. Going through peaks and troughs of popularity – he enjoyed previous bumps in 2007 and 2011 – Shabani could not have been prepared for the onslaught of attention he would receive in 2015.

The fame came when Shabani was photographed with his mate, Ai. The photographer originally intended to capture Ai’s fist pump, but it was her partner who was drawing the eyeballs, mostly from young Japanese women.

And, thus, a meme was born. Photos began to circulate using the hashtag #Ikemen – or ‪#シャバーニ (good looking man) – and the Japanese media began to take notice. Then it was just a short step to stardom.

Shabani is the meme that keeps giving. Although murmurings of his beauty first surfaced back in March, and the adulation kicked off proper in the summer, Shabani clearly has staying power.

Most of the pictures, tweets and Instagrams posted here were taken very recently. Like, this morning recently.

Shabani! #SHABANI

A photo posted by masaomi_hirata (@masaomi_hirata) on

Look at these shots – I’m fairly sure I’ve seen male models strike these exact poses. What a natural!

Shabani! #SHABANI A photo posted by masaomi_hirata (@masaomi_hirata) on

Shabani! #SHABANI

A photo posted by masaomi_hirata (@masaomi_hirata) on

Give me pensive…

…welcome to the gun show…

…and thoughtful, black and white, gazing into the mid-distance…

Such artistry!

Here he is, giving us the come hither.

Shabani is also a bit of a player, with two ‘wives’ on the go. He has two children, too – something that seems to have endeared him even more to his hordes of Japanese fans.

Even though he’s well into his 30s – maybe even 40s – in human years, Shabani definitely doesn’t have Dad bod, as long, lingering videos clearly show.

Such is Shabani’s fame that there have even been searches for any mere humans who could come close to his attractiveness.

We’re not sure they’ve quite managed it here, though – close, but no sexy gorilla.

Where other memes have multitudinous variations – look at Bill Nye the Science Guy, or Kocoum – Shabani the handsome gorilla does not; just photo after photo of his photogenic self.

But let’s be honest – with look like these, who needs variety? 

  Shabani! #SHABANI   A photo posted by masaomi_hirata (@masaomi_hirata) on

And for those of you who don’t think good looks open doors, Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens has reported an increase in daily visits. Almost double usual figures. Mostly young women.

Go figure.

Keep watching as we look back on the greatest memes of 2015. Let us know your favourite at @siliconrepublic on Twitter.

Main image via Shutterstock

Kirsty Tobin was careers editor at Silicon Republic