Should they have shot Harambe?
The shooting of Harambe, the 17-year-old 400 pound lowland gorilla at the Cincinnati zoo, is burning up the internet with controversy. Zoo officials made the decision to shoot the magnificent animal to protect a young boy who’d broken away from his mother and fallen into the gorilla enclosure.
People are grieving the loss of this great animal, and many are placing blame squarely on both the mother of the child, and zoo officials, for his loss. Concerned animal lovers are so angry that they are circulating an online petition calling for the family of the child to face justice.
According to many experts, the child was in danger as the extremely powerful gorilla grew increasingly agitated by the noise of terrified onlookers, and the novelty of having a frightened child in his habitat. But many feel the young silverback was not threatening the child, and in fact was trying to protect the child. There are several gentle moments between the two recorded, along with some intense footage of the large gorilla dragging the child quickly through the water in his enclosure.
Critics of the shooting site other incidents when gorillas didn’t hurt children who’d fallen into their enclosures, and in fact seemed to act with curiosity, concern and compassion, rather than aggression. They argue that it’s essentially the silverback’s job within gorilla society to protect the group and investigate novelties in its environment, and aggressive assaults are preceded by warning signs, like charges and chest beating.
Some experts argue that a small human child would not pose a threat to an adult male, and a gorilla like Harambe wouldn’t hurt a human child in the wild. However, gorillas in zoos are not living in the wild, and they are dealing with unique stressors that could change the outcome of such an event dramatically in captivity.
PETA, the animal rights group, is using this incident to decry the keeping of animals in zoos in general, stressing how they don’t believe these institutions can adequately protect the animals, and care for the animals’ many needs. Zoo officials, however, maintain that zoos remain a vital part of world-wide conservation efforts, and play an important role in the education of the public.
Photo: (Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden / YouTube)