Thoughts on Harambe the Gorilla
There has been so much talk about the incident this past Saturday, at the Cincinnati Zoo. I am sure I do not need to tell you the story, you have heard the whole thing already, right? The story has been plastered all over the news and social media since it happened. But there is a lot of controversy over where the blame should be placed on this tragic event... Did the zoo handle the situation correctly? Why was the mom not watching her toddler more closely? How was it so easy for the child to enter the gorilla exhibit? Did zoo officials really need to shoot and kill Harambe?
What do you think?
So that you understand my own perspective on it, let me first start off by saying that I am a huge animal lover. I am not crazy fanatical about it, but I do have a very soft spot in my heart for animals. I was a vegetarian for several years, mostly because I did not like the idea of eating animals. I slowly got away from my vegetarian ways, although I always feel like I should go back to it. I also will never go to any sort of circus that has animals performing for people's "enjoyment". Those are wild animals who are forced to do things not normal to them in the wild. Plus, we have all heard reports of how horribly those animals are treated behind closed doors. I do not need to see elephants balancing on one foot, or lions jumping through a flaming hoop for my entertainment. I like to see animals as God intended them to be. Natural. Wild. Free.
Which brings us to zoos. I was never a huge fan of the concept of zoos. Animals not allowed to be in the wild, in their natural habitats. However, unlike a circus, the animals not trained to do any tricks or perform, and they are provided with an environment that somewhat simulates their natural habitats. Also, for many animals who are endangered species, I felt the zoo had it's good qualities. Now, after events like what occurred this past weekend, I am rethinking my acceptance of zoos. Perhaps I will be boycotting zoos, as I have the circus.
My first question upon hearing of the death of Harambe was why did zoo officials not just shoot the gorilla with a tranquilizer instead of a gun? I heard this was because shooting the 400+ pound gorilla with a tranquilizer would take several minutes to take effect, possibly causing him to become agitated in the meantime. Ok, I understand that, other than in this day of technology and advanced medical ingenuity, is there not a tranquilizer available with nearly immediate effects? Also, is there no tazer-type of device that can be used for rare and urgent circumstances like this? Here again, being an animal lover, I am not digging the idea of using a tazer-type device on an animal, however in extreme circumstances like this, I would prefer that over the animal being shot and killed. Most likely, Harambe would agree.
I understand that the zoo did what they thought they had to do. I am sure most of the people who work at the Cincinnati Zoo do so because they have a love of animals and wish to take care of them. I truly believe they acted with best intentions, as unfortunate as the outcome was. Perhaps their biggest fault in this tragic event are the barriers they have set up between the wild animals and the visitors. I hope the Cincinnati Zoo, along with all other zoos, will re-examine their barriers, fences, and partitions, so that a child can not make it into an animal exhibit. If it is their intent as an operating zoo, to care for the animals and provide a way to view them, then they need to take all precautions to ensure safety for both animals and people.
You have probably also heard (and maybe even seen because yes, there is a video) that the 17 year old gorilla appeared to be protecting the child. I have watched the video and it does seem that way to me. The only part that the child looks to be in danger was when the gorilla had a hold of the boy and moved from one side of the mote to the other, pulling the boy through the water. Let's face it, no one knows what the gorilla thought during this situation and what he might have done had people not stepped in when they did. One thing is for sure is that humans gave this little section for the gorillas to call home...and a human boy was suddenly in their home. The gorillas were supposed to be there. The human was not. But, now let's address the issue everyone is talking about...
Why was the mother not watching her child more closely?
I have seen some very harsh comments on social media towards the mother of the 4 year old who fell into the gorilla exhibit. Others have stuck up for her saying no mother is perfect and we all have taken our eyes off our children at times. My view on this? Yes, every mother has taken her eyes off of her child for a moment. Maybe you have even done so at a shopping mall, and went into severe panic mode for 30 seconds when you don't see your child when you turn around. Maybe you got busy making dinner when you suddenly notice your toddler got into the flour and half of your kitchen floor is covered in it. Sure, it happens.
But here is my thought...how many minutes did it take for that child to climb over the fence, through the bushes, and then fall down the 14 foot drop into the mote below? 3 minutes? 4 minutes? I was obviously not there and can only speculate, but I feel it must have taken several minutes for this toddler to make his way into the exhibit. More than just the "I took my eyes off of him to a second" scenario. So, for this reason, I feel the mother is hugely to blame for the death of this innocent creature. I have heard the police and child protective services might be investigating the mother and this situation. Although I am not sure she is a horrible parent, and perhaps this was just an unfortunate isolated incident, I do think this should remind all of us to watch your children closely, always.
The Bigger Picture?
With all of this being said, it has been reported that the 4 year old boy was not hurt during this. For that, I am very happy. It does not change the fact that an innocent primate, which was in the care of humans, was murdered. Many people are outraged over this. Let us not forget this is not the only time humans kill beautiful creatures. Do you all remember back last year when an American dentist received a lot of backlash over his hunting of Cecil the Lion, in Zimbabwe? Not to mention all the countless animals that are killed everyday, especially in other countries. Do you know how many elephants are slaughtered each year for their tusks? An estimated 33,000 each year! Let's face it, humans are deadly to animals. Much more so than animals are deadly to humans it seems.
This is not the first incident and it won't be the last.
I wanted to write about this and not focus totally on the zoo...or the mother...but to bring awareness to the bigger problem. The fact that humans are a treat to animals. Everyone is upset over this one incident. Rightfully so. Just also think about the gorillas still in the wild who are hunted and killed daily. In the Republic of Congo for example, gorillas are hunted on a regular basis.
Maybe we should all talk more about that.
(The follow image may be disturbing to some viewers.)
This recent event has really made me think about all animals and how we treat the lives of animals. It make me look beyond this one troubling incident and think about the bigger picture. I chose to not focus so much on Harambe, as tragic as this was, but to see what can be done about horrible things happening to animals like Harambe everyday. If we all took steps to help the cause of animals, something could be done. Each step is small, until you have walked miles.