A Gorilla in a Zoo

Ever since zookeepers had to shoot dead a gorilla holding a 4 year old boy who was able to get into his ‘enclosure’, people are in an outrage over the unfortunate situation.

Animal rights activists, especially that this is an endangered Lowland gorilla and is a silverback male at his prime, they blame the boy’s parents for not keeping a close enough eye on him. Though most don’t go so far to say it, they’d rather the zookeepers takes its chance with the gorilla fondling the boy until he’s (the gorilla) done with him and walk away, tranquilize the gorilla and then safely get boy out than just shooting him (the gorilla) dead. This also means that the life of an endangered animal is more valuable than a human child. How much that this child happens to be black and therefore immediate assumptions are made about his parents’ parenting skills in making this sort judgement is unknown, but judging from some of the articles that are filtering through the press right now, this fact is close to people’s minds. The Daily Mail have already dug up ‘dirt’ on the boy’s father as being a convicted drug dealer and declared them to be the ‘most irresponsible’ of parents. 

Most people believe the boy’s life is more valuable than that of a gorilla, even if he were the last of its kind on earth. It doesn’t matter how the boy got into the enclosure, whether his parents were delinquent in their supervision of him, his life is more important than that of an ape.

I am of the third camp where I find this whole thing outrageous on many levels and the blame is evenly split between the zoo and the parents and of course, you save the boy. Those who waffle on this issue need to re-examine their humanity.

The whole idea of zoos and keeping wild animals which belong in the wild in their own habitat and are now trapped in enclosures for the rest of their natural lives an outrage. A gorilla belongs in the wild, since this is a Lowland Gorilla, he belongs in the African Lowlands. He’s to lead his own family, he’s to hunt and forage for his own food and build nests where it’s comfortable for him to lie in at night. He’s not supposed to be gawked at by curious adults and children (unlike chimpanzees, gorillas are not outgoing and friendly with humans, they are quite shy and prefer to not be around humans), be fed his meals (as opposed him foraging and hunting them himself) and kept in a confined space with no companion. This in and of itself is a cruelty of its own.

That aside, zoos are here to say and that one of the reasons for the existence of zoos is because humans have destroyed wildlife and their habitat for so long that in order for animals to not become extinct, humans have to keep them and breed them in captivity, even if it’s detrimental to their development and totally unnatural to their state of existence. I suppose it’s better than they going extinct. Zoos, besides providing entertainment and education for families, also exists as a conservation program.

This is also where animal and conservation activists raise their strongest objections. The whole idea of keeping the gorilla in a zoo is so that he doesn’t get killed or maimed by poachers or trophy hunters, and what happens to him anyways? He gets killed by a zookeeper because some improperly supervised little boy crawled into his enclosure. I understand their frustration, as an animal lover myself, I understand their passion towards wildlife and the loss of a beautiful wild animal.

Of course, without any argument, the most valuable thing on this earth is the life of a human, especially that of a young child who didn’t understand the ramifications of his actions when he decided to crawl into the gorilla’s enclosure.

The boy’s life is the most important out of this unfortunate situation, regardless of how he ended up there. You don’t sacrifice the life of a child for the life of an animal. Never.

But let’s go back to the zoo and the ‘enclosure’. If someone, even a small child, can crawl in from under the enclosure, then it’s not an enclosure. It has by definition, failed at being an enclosure. An animal enclosure is supposed to ‘enclose’, which means no one can breach it, not the animal, not another human (adult or child). The fact that a child can ‘fall into the moat’ and approach the gorilla, there is something very wrong with the design of the ‘enclosure’.

For those that say ‘why not tranquilize the gorilla and then fetch the boy after its down’ don’t realize that the gorilla is 350 to 400 lbs, and if he is tranquilized while holding the boy and subsequently drops him as he’s passing out from the tranquilizer, the boy can die from falling, or if he doesn’t die from fall, but if the gorilla falls on the boy on his way down, the gorilla can crush the boy to death. There was no choice but to shoot the poor animal. Standing there with baited breath hoping the animal doesn’t harm the child, leaves it and walks away is not an option. Too many uncontrollable variables. So, as a result the parents are blamed and shamed.

On the issue of parental supervision, or lack of in this case, which allowed a 4 year old to get into a gorilla enclosure. Parents and guardians are responsible for their offspring while in public, all the time, every time – no exceptions. Having said that, it’s impossible to control a rambunctious and excited 4 year old every second of every day and despite the best of intention and supervision. Accidents happen when you are looking and when you aren’t. It takes less than two seconds for something to go horribly wrong, it really is that quick. Those who don’t have small children cannot appreciate this often repeated cliche (and fact). Especially when they are headed to places like the zoo or an amusement park, where they are supposed to become excited. To be so harsh and judgmental on the parents of this little boy and to dig up all the dirt one can find on them just prove how ‘irresponsible’ they are and now it’s all their fault that an endangered gorilla is dead due to their negligence is unfair. To imply that the life of a gorilla is more important under some circumstances than the life of their child is callous and cruel. And in this case, I’d argue it’s racist.

This was a bad situation where mistakes were made by the adults and authorities (zoo). The zoo’s mistake is that its enclosure is faulty, it isn’t really an enclosure if a child can get in. The second mistake is the boy’s parents didn’t keep an enough of a watchful eye on their child. Children are naturally curious, they exist to push boundaries, to test their parents’ patience. They don’t know the dangers or the ramifications of their actions. They can’t know at 4 years old. It’s up to the parents to rein their children in. And in places like zoos where there are usually throngs of people and animals caged in improperly designed enclosures, it does not cross the line to ask parents and their children to stay at home if their child does not know how to respond the instructions of parents in public. Parents cannot assume that zoos are inherently safe because it happens to be a place where a lot of children visit. Just like any reasonable parent wouldn’t assume the carnival rides at local fairs are inherently safe.

All the hysteria whipped up over dead animals (remember Cecil the Lion?) is distracting from the real tragedies in the world right now.

Over 500 people have died in the Mediterranean Sea this past week. Rescuers are still retrieving floating bodies in the sea. Most of the dead are Africans and Middle Easterners fleeing war, poverty and political instability – a lot of it caused by the policies and actions of Western nations. This barely registered on all the major news outlets as they are whipped up in a whole other hysteria and the freak show that is the US presidential elections. Syria’s civil war is has gone on for 5 years, half of that country’s population has been displaced, over 250,000 dead. In the year 2016, we are in the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. There is war, political instability, extreme poverty and persecution on almost every continent in this world right now. The United States, EU, Canada, Australia and parts of South America are the only peaceful, secure and wealthy regions left in the world and they’ve chosen to turn a blind eye to the suffering of the rest of the world, even as they drown. Instead of trying to help these people, these governments are talking about restricting refugee and migrants.

And we are talking about Harambe the gorilla. Yes, the gorilla had a name too, his name was Harambe.

4 thoughts on “A Gorilla in a Zoo

  1. The incident with Cecil the Lion is fundamentally different from this one since he was deliberately tracked, hunted, then killed over a long period of time. This was an emergency that came out of nowhere. They just need to chalk this up to bad luck, either improve the enclosures or release the gorillas back out into the wild, then move on.I don’t necessarily object to zoos since the only way a child or any average person is going to get to see a gorilla is to see one in captivity. Who knows, a trip to the zoo could eventually lead to a career in conversation or environmentalism.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know the circumstances between Cecil and this gorilla are different, but what’s the same is the over analyzing and obsession about their deaths.
      I don’t object to the zoos per se, I get why they need to exist and how they are educational and I love going to the zoo, but it’s still unnatural for the animals, especially the wild animals who need territory to roam. I feel bad for those animals. Animals in the zoo are not living their best lives, unless say it’s a sloth or a koala bear where they don’t require much space to live happily and comfortably.
      I love trips to the zoo. I still go as an adult. My 29th birthday present from my husband was a trip to the zoo and he didn’t gripe one time.

      Liked by 1 person

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