Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Rest In Peace Harambe

      I have watched with fascination and horror the videos of Harambe the silverback male gorilla interacting with the 3 year old boy who crawled into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo this past week.  By now you probably know that the zookeepers made the difficult decision to shoot Harambe in order to prevent him from harming the boy.  I’m sure you’ve heard the outcry from every angle: why did the zookeepers shoot Harambe rather than try to lure him away?  Why were the parents not watching the child more closely?  Why are there gorillas in captivity in a zoo anyway? Why? Why? Why?

     Some are saying that Harambe was not trying to hurt the boy.  At times he seemed almost gentle, hovering over the boy as if “protecting” him, holding his hand, and when the boy tried to scoot away, pulling him in closer so he could not escape.  But there are also moments when he was agitated, grabbing the boy by the leg and dragging him through the moat, the boy’s head bouncing off the cement.  After that particular incident the boy sat as if in a daze, probably seeing stars.

    It’s probably true that Harambe was not intentionally trying to hurt the child.  If he had wanted to, he could have snapped the boy's neck in an instant.  But it’s hard to spend time with a 400 pound gorilla without getting hurt. After just 10 minutes of “play” the boy had already suffered a concussion.  It’s hard to tell what Harambe would have done with the child if he’d been allowed to “play” with him much longer. He was obviously fascinated with the boy and didn’t quite know what to make of him, and he didn’t want to give him up.  (I’d be curious to know if male gorillas in the wild interact with their babies and treat them gently.)

     What were the alternatives to killing Harambe? Someone could have snuck into the enclosure and tried to steal the boy away. I doubt that would have worked. Harambe had already laid claim to the boy and probably wouldn’t have given him up without a fight.  They could have waited for Harambe to tire of the boy, but who knows how long that would have taken, and how beat up the boy would have been by then?   They already said that tranquilizing Harambe would have taken time and may have agitated him more before he became unconscious.

    It’s sad that an innocent beast had to die just because he was being curious and doing what came naturally.  The boy never should have been in the enclosure in the first place. If my child was expressing persistent interest in crawling into a cage with a male gorilla (which onlookers say that he was), you can bet I’d be the one dragging him in the opposite direction for a good talking to or spanking if necessary.  But it’s too late for that. Harambe is gone. 

    What are the lessons we can learn from this sad event?  1.) Watch your kids, all of them, no matter how many you have.  It’s your responsibility as a parent.  It only takes a moment for them to put themselves or someone else in danger.  2.) Don’t assume anything is 100% fail safe.  For 38 years nobody penetrated that enclosure but it only took a 3 year old a few minutes to do so. 3.) When it comes down to it and a choice has to be made, be thankful that there is someone level headed and decisive enough in the vicinity to make the right choice and do the hard thing to save you or your child.  4.) After it’s all over, ignore all the self-righteous protesters who don’t know anything at all about male gorillas.



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