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I have never written about current events on this site before. However, today I am because people, we need to talk!
On Saturday May 28, Harambe, a 17 year old lowland gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo was shot by keepers to ensure the safety of a 3 (original releases claimed the child to be 4 years old) year old who had gotten into the gorilla’s enclosure. As news outlets reported the incident to the public and shared an edited video of the incident taken by a witness, outrage exploded on social media. Many claimed the zoo keepers were wrong in their course of action and others blamed the mother. The incident is heartbreaking on all sides. However, what is the most heartbreaking, is the hate and judgement being thrown around social media. Tweet
Here is what was reported by various news outlets:
On Saturday, May 28, a young boy is heard by a bystander at Gorilla World in the Cincinnati Zoo saying he wants to jump in and play in the water with the gorillas. The witness goes on to say that the mother repeatedly told him he cannot. She had other young children with her and when she was busy assisting them, the boy got into the enclosure. Another witness saw the boy but was unable to stop him. This witness called out to him multiple times to come back, but he continued on.
When zoo keepers became aware of the incident, they immediately called the 3 lowland gorillas (an endangered species) in the enclosure out. The two female gorillas complied. Harambe, the 450 pound male gorilla did not. Zoo staff and the Cincinnati Fire Department were the first responders on the scene. Cincinnati Fire Department Chief Marc Monahan wrote in a statement that arriving on the scene they, “witnessed a gorilla who was violently dragging and throwing the child”. Edited video footage (“graphic” parts had been edited out) circulating shows the gorilla pulling the child by the foot and watching observers as screams and panic ensued. Towards the end of this video, Harambe disappears with the child. The zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team ultimately shot the gorilla and fire fighters removed the child from the enclosure. He was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, released later that evening and is expected to make a full recovery. The incident lasted about 10 minutes.
The barrier in place around Gorilla World has been so for 38 years. This is the first incident. Gorilla World has been closed indefinitely.
“I can’t believe they shot the gorilla!!! Why didn’t they just tranquilize him?” Tweet
Remember that we are talking about a 450 pound WILD animal with a young child a tenth of his size. Had the zoo staff attempted to tranquilize Harambe, it could have taken minutes to take effect. In the meantime, it would have likely agitated the gorilla even more. Zoo keepers do what they do because they love animals. They love the animals they care for more than many understand and know them as a mother knows her children. The animals are their life. The keepers are dedicated to them to the point that they show up on Christmas, and all holidays to feed and care for them. As a part of being given the amazing privilege of caring for these animals, the keepers are trained extensively on how to handle the type of situation that occurred Saturday. They go through drills often and have a Dangerous Animal Response Team on hand. The keepers & staff addressing the situation last Saturday took the action they did as they believed it to be the only option to ensure the 4 year old’s safety.
“Harambe wan’t being rough with the child at all in the video. He was protecting the child!” Tweet
“What a terrible mother!!” Tweet
The mother is not known by most of the people commenting, nor were these individuals witnesses to the live occurrence. The only FACTS we have are that a 3 year old boy (original releases claimed the child to be 4 years old) got into the gorilla enclosure. One witness said she saw the child, tried to stop him and called to him multiple times to come back. He wouldn’t. The witness also stated, ” It happened so fast”. A second witness took to Facebook to share what she witnessed (see below). To judge someone in such a harsh manner based on one or two facts that have been reported is irresponsible.
“The parents should be prosecuted!” Tweet
Again, these are accusations being made without all the facts. The Cincinnati Zoo has closed Gorilla World indefinitely to re-evaluate the enclosure and review all security camera footage. They, having first hand and accurate knowledge of what actually happened, will make the decision on whether or not to press charges. The safety of their animals as well as the safety of their guests is a priority. More than once children have gotten into enclosures at various zoos and each incident is evaluated individually. In April 2015, a two year old boy fell into a cheetah exhibit at the Cleveland Zoo as his mother held him out over the railing. The zoo is pressing charges on the parents in this case. The Cincinnati Zoo does not have plans to press charge at this time. As I said though, they will investigate as completely as possible. Let’s leave the decision to those who have all the facts.
I’ve worked with 100’s of young children and their families over the years. In fact, I’ve probably taken over a 100 of them to Cincinnati Zoo. There was a time when I might have fallen into the name calling trap others have toward this mother. However, I have come to learn, I mean really understand, that all children are different. Many would probably agree with me on that statement, but few truly understand its depth. My 4 year old daughter is definitely a unique child. Sadly, I can easily envision her, should she be determined to “jump in and play with the gorilla” doing so if I were to look away for only a second. She’s just that determined in life itself. As I keep saying, I was not there. I do not know exactly how it all happened. Freak accidents happen and when they do, they often have not happened before.
I planned to post an article about the Cincinnati Zoo this week. However, it was not about the death of an animal, but the life: Zoo Babies. Sadly, this article is posting first as I am overwhelmed with sadness of the situation and the hate I am seeing on social media. I’m not saying you should believe the zoo made the right choice or that the mother wasn’t negligent. What I am saying…asking….begging of you is to take a step back and consider showing compassion and empathy. The zoo keepers were in one of the situations they fear the most. The mother was in a terrifying position I’m guessing she never imagined. Please don’t make assumptions or judge. Let’s all redirect that energy to prayers of gratefulness the boy is going to be okay, prayers for the Cincinnati Zoo family and prayers of hope that this never happens again.
“The Zoo security team’s quick response
saved the child’s life. We are all
devastated that this tragic accident
resulted in the death of a critically-
endangered gorilla…This is a huge loss for
the Zoo family and the gorilla population
worldwide….Our thoughts and prayers are
with the family and little boy”
– Zoo Director, Thane Maynard
Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV
Cincinnati Zoo Press Conference
Cincinnati Zoo Press Release
Cincinnati Zoo Facebook Post
Cincinnati Fire Deparment Release
Disclosure: Image owned by the Cincinnati Zoo. All opinions expressed above are those of the writer and are in no way influenced by companies or brands mentioned within. Post and page may contain affiliate links and advertising. Thank you for clicking through them! It helps keep 4 The Love Of Family here for you
‘jgjkgkjCincinnati Zoo Gorilla Shot After 4 Year Old Enters Habitat
My husband has four kids. I asked him about it and he agrees things happen, but in this case it is more of just a ‘shit happens’ scenario. She allowed her child to fall into a gorilla pit. She wasn’t paying attention long enough for him to actually find a way in. A gorilla was killed for acting like a gorilla. Had she left her child in a hot car and he been saved (or died) I highly doubt all these ‘parents aren’t perfect’ people would be singing the same tune.
Angela Johnson says
I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. The point of the article is to have compassion and not judge without first hand knowledge and facts. Assumptions can be dangerous.
Deborah C says
I want to thank you for posting this article! I believe 100% of what you believe and feel many people jump to conclusions or accusations without knowing all of the facts and not being there to witness this tragic event (and am so glad the child survived). So many times in social media we voice our opinions without realizing how inaccurate they are or hurtful they can be.
Angela Johnson says
Thanks, Deborah! <3