Animal activists have condemned the decision by a Cincinnati zoo to shoot dead a gorilla after a 3 year-old child fell into its enclosure.
Killing Of Gorilla – Tragic Accident
In what must be every parent’s nightmare, a three year old child fell into an enclosure with a 400 pound gorilla. The boy, visiting Cincinnati zoo with his parents, scaled a 3 feet high metal barrier, worked his through bushes before falling into the lair of Harambe, a 17 year-old silverback gorilla. The child was dragged round a moat as part of the habitat by his ankles and the decision was taken to shoot the gorilla with a rifle, while the child was sheltered between his legs.
Always the home to indignation, a Facebook page immediately sprang up calling on people to pray for ‘handsome’ Harambe.
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A lot of the outrage stems from the fact that the lowland gorilla appeared to be protecting the boy rather than preying upon the young child.
Brittany Nicely, a witness to the event told ABC News. “The little boy, once he fell — I don’t think the gorilla even knew that he was in there until he heard him splashing in the water,” adding that it was actually the concerned screams from onlookers that drew Harambe’s attention. “The gorilla rushed the boy but did not hit the boy,” she said. “He almost was guarding the boy, was protecting him.”
The incident has fueled the on going discussions about whether zoos should have a place in our society. PETA, one of the foremost animal right activists released a highly critical statement criticizing the shooting of the gorilla. They argued that zoos were completely unsatisfactory habitats for animals that need to be in the wild. Regarding the gorilla they said, “Gorillas are self-aware. They love, laugh, sing, play and grieve. Western lowland gorillas are gentle animals. They don’t attack unless they’re provoked.”
Zoo Defends Decision
The director of the zoo, Thane Maynard, has defended the decision to shoot Harambe following widespread criticism. He stated during a news conference on Monday that if the situation arose again, they “would make the same decision”.
Jack Hanna, the director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and a well respected television personality and expert on animals welfare, defended the zoo’s choice of action, “remember something — no one loves gorillas more than the Columbus Zoo, the Cincinnati Zoo and the zoo world,” he stated. “We have given literally millions and millions of dollars to preserve these animals, both mountain gorillas and lowland gorillas.”
Maynard also said “They made a tough choice and they made the right choice, because they saved that little boy’s life. It could have been very bad.” He added that it worth noting that Harambe was strong enough to crush a coconut with his hands so this was not situation where chances could be taken.
The zoo added that this was the first time someone had breached their security measures, which were over and above the required standards but that they would still instigate a review process of the barriers and make any changes they felt were necessary.
The boy was knocked unconscious during the incident, and was hospitalized with injuries, but nothing serious, and released that same day. He suffered no internal injuries and other than a traumatic experience, escaped with nothing more than wounds. A very lucky outcome.
The moral of the story is to keep a closer eye on any young children when at the zoo, (or anywhere for that matter) and this whole debate will be avoided.