Harambe. Rest in peace.
With all the media frenzy about the tragic death of Harambe the gorilla, people seem to have forgotten two simple facts: gorillas are wild animals, and kids are fast.
I reproduce here with permission the comments of an acquaintance of mine with experience in zoo management:
“They had no choice. [Harambe] was not guarding the child, he was pushing him around and getting more agitated.
This is not like Brookfield in the 90s. That boy was unconscious and not screaming, and the first animal to reach him was a nursing mother. This was a silverback protecting his family; the dynamics are different. In the wild silverbacks will kill babies from other fathers. It would have taken 10 to 30 minutes for a dart to have worked, and in that time you have a seriously pissed off male gorilla with a screaming 4-year-old.1 The keepers had no choice and they did not shoot him callously.
You can blame the mother but I cannot count how many times [my child] slipped away in the blink of an eye. I do not know that she was not watching the child. A slight distraction with another child is the basis of countless tragedies. The kid was 4 so you cannot blame him. 4-year-olds do not have a true sense of danger or outcome which is why we cannot leave them alone. How many of us found ourselves lost as small children because Mom turned a corner and she thought we were with her? Just to note I got lost at about 4 at Brookfield Zoo while watching the brown bears. It happens, it is a tragedy and zoos will need to reexamine their enclosures. Last week 3 lions were killed because a suicidal guy entered their enclosure.
[An added note:] for all of the upset over this one animal (and I think this is a tragedy) no one is talking about the slaughter of gorillas in the wild from poaching to the bush meat trade it is devastating what is happening to the wild populations. Focus your energy where the real horror lies.”
-Dr. Geralyn M. Mostaccio-Caplan
Compounding the stupidity, police and prosecutors are now considering pressing charges against the parents of the boy who slipped away; clearly there is a shortage of real criminals and real cases to keep them busy.
As Dr. Mostaccio-Caplan mentioned above, kids of this age are fast, clever, adventuresome, and devoid of an awareness of danger. I lost my own two-year-old in a mall after a split-second of inattention, and it was one of the most horrific moments of my life, but he was returned to us safely – hundreds of such instances (normal incidents, not kidnappings or anything crime-related) are repeated daily in a nation of nearly 325 million people. It happens.
Animal-rights activists and child-welfare activists are losing their minds and making media hay out of a tragic but essentially unavoidable situation. Lessons can be learned from this event and improvements made to zoo enclosures, but for the most part everyone needs to chill.
The Old Wolf has spoken.
1 It turns out the child was three, but the difference in this case is irrelevant.