On May 28, a 3-year-old boy wandered away from his mother, climbed over a 3-foot fence, climbed through bushes to the edge of an ape habitat, and fell 15 feet into the moat that surrounded the enclosure.
The child was dragged around by the 400-pound, 17-year-old ape until zoo personnel killed the gorilla, Harambe, with a single bullet, according to The Guardian.
This ordeal has stirred quite the controversy. Many claim it is the mother’s fault for not watching her child close enough. Some on social media say the gorilla should have been lured away with treats or tranquilized instead of being killed. While we aren’t stating who we feel is at fault or what the consequence should be for whomever may be at fault, we do stand behind the zoo’s decision to act quickly and save the child from further harm.
This may seem blunt or harsh, but when you get down to it, there was a child’s life at stake, and something needed to be done.
Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo, said the gorilla was acting erratically and the child was in immediate danger, according to The Guardian.
“The child was being dragged around, and his head was banging on the concrete,” Maynard said.
While some argue that the gorilla was trying to protect the child, each moment that passed with the child in the pit was a moment he could have been seriously injured or even killed.
Amanda O’Donoughue, a former zoo caretaker of apes, posted on her Facebook page her support for the Cincinnati Zoo’s decision. O’Donoughue said from her job, she gained an understanding of zookeeper-and-animal relationships as well as emergency zoo protocol.
O’Donoughue said that while gorillas are called “gentle giants,” an adult male gorilla can be as strong as 10 adult men.
Maynard said Harambe could crush coconuts with one hand.
“Males do very elaborate displays when highly agitated, slamming and dragging things about,” O’Donoughue said. “Harambe was most likely not going to separate himself from that child without seriously hurting him first, again due to mere size and strength, not malicious intent.”
O’Donoughue pointed out that tranquilizers can take several minutes to work. After being immobilized, Harambe could have drowned in the moat or could’ve fallen on the child and drowned him.
“When gorilla or other apes have things they shouldn’t have, keepers will negotiate with them, bring food, their favorite treats, pineapple or some kind of fruit that they don’t know and negotiate with them,” said Ian Redmon, chairman of The Gorilla Organization. “I don’t know if that was tried or people thought there was too much danger, but it does seem very unfortunate that a lethal shot was required.”
While we feel it is a deep tragedy that this beautiful animal had to be killed, we understand that protocols are in place for a reason, and it is not for the uneducated public to judge.
“That child’s life was in danger,” Maynard said. “People who question that don’t understand you can’t take a risk with a silverback gorilla — this is a dangerous animal. Looking back, we’d make the same decision. The child is safe.”
Yes, the animal was one of an endangered species. Less than 175,000 exist in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund website. But if your child, your niece or nephew, your cousin had wandered away from you and fallen into a pit, you would be more concerned with preserving their life.
You would not let the situation play out to see if the gorilla would kill him or not.
Deidre Lykins, a spectator of the incident, described the boys interaction with the gorilla to CNN.
“If you had seen the gorilla dragging this baby with his little precious face just bouncing off the rocks, he just looked lifeless,” she said. “We did not leave the zoo until we knew that the little boy was OK.”
This is not an issue of preserving an endangered species, though we acknowledge the importance thereof. This is a matter of the value of human life, especially the innocent life of a young child.
The family spokesperson released a statement that the boy was sent to the hospital but only received a concussion and minor injuries.
“We continue to praise God for His grace and mercy, and to be thankful to the Cincinnati Zoo for their actions taken to protect our child,”family spokesperson said.