Recently, a four-year-old fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo and one of the gorillas, a silverback named Harambe was shot and killed in an effort to protect the child. Witnesses say that Harambe was acting protectively over the child but a video shows the gorilla dragging the boy through the water by his foot. Some pictures show the child holding hands with the gorilla and other pictures show the child being whipped around through the water.
A petition called Justice for Harambe has surfaced claiming that the mother of the child is responsible for the gorilla’s death because she was negligent and allowed her child to climb into the enclosure. Although the petition has gotten nearly 500,000 signatures, the zoo has currently made no move to press charges. However, the question still remains: did Harambe need to die and should the child’s mother be held criminally responsible?
First off, I want to say that Harambe’s death is a tragedy. I know the zoo-keepers are mourning the loss of Harambe and many people feel that the loss was unnecessary and unjustified. From first-hand accounts, video footage, and pictures, it does not appear that the gorilla intended to harm the child, which makes his death all the more tragic.
Now, I want to say that a child’s life is and will always be more important than a gorilla’s. The life of a gorilla is important but the value of a child’s life should not be questioned. And the second that child fell in the gorilla enclosure, his life was in danger. Yes, Harambe did not appear threatening to the child, especially in the pictures where they are holding hands. But Harambe was a 400+ lbs. animal and he dragged him through the water by his leg. He could have hurt the boy, even unintentionally. Waiting for the gorilla to calm down, tranquilizing him, bargaining, many, if not all of these options would have certainly preserved the life of Harambe. But, none of them would have ensured the life of the child and at the end of the day, the zoo keepers chose to save his life over Harambe’s.
I will not say that we as a people lack compassion and I will not say that our compassion is misplaced. Its right to be angry and sad about Harambe’s death and it’s important that we express our sympathy and condolences to the zookeepers. But I think it’s time to show some compassion to the mother and her child. All parents make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes result in a scraped knee and a few tears and sometimes the consequences are much steeper. This mother made a mistake and that mistake resulted in the death of Harambe, but I thank God that her mistake didn’t result in the death of her son. Because at the end of the day, I would rather hear about the tragic death of a gorilla than the tragic death of a child.