You may have seen it in the news the past couple of days, a 17-year-old silverback gorilla was killed after a 3-year-old boy fell into it’s enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. According to NBC, the child was in the enclosure for about 10 minutes and some witnesses say the gorilla was acting protectively toward the boy. Regardless, the gorilla was shot and killed and the boy was removed from the enclosure with minimal injuries.
There have been more and more reports of incidents with zoo animals plaguing the news. It was only last week that reports came out about a man in Chile that jumped (naked) into a lion’s enclosure in an attempted suicide. Two lions were killed to save the man because the lions started to maul him. Though tranquilizer guns were used, Independent.ie reports that the man got hit with a tranquilizer and in the end the the lions were shot and killed.
Seeing zoo animals being killed because of lack of safety features or supervision upsets me. Specifically, the situation in Cincinatti has me wondering several things.
- Where were the parents? Some news reports state that the mother was nearby and in videos you can hear the mother calling to the child. But how is it the child managed to crawl into the enclosure? I’m not a parent so I don’t know how hard it is to keep an eye on a child but at an area like this (a public place with animals) wouldn’t you watch your child more carefully?
- Why was the kid able to get into the enclosure? Most of the articles I read said that the child “slipped and fell” into the gorilla enclosure. According to WHAS11, “the boy crawled through a public barrier at Gorilla World at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, he fell about 15 feet into a moat that contained about 1 foot of water.” But why was there openings big enough for the kid to crawl through to begin with? Enclosures should be much more protected in order to prevent patrons from entering the exhibits.
- Why weren’t there safety measures put in place? One of the biggest issues I have with this entire situation is that there were no safety measures or protocols put in place to protect the animal (i.e. an effective tranquilizer). PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) made a statement that said, “Even though the zoo’s director acknowledged that (Harambee) was not attacking the boy, it was believed that a tranquilizer wouldn’t work fast enough.” Why weren’t there strong enough tranquilizers to knock the animal out? Why was shooting him the best option?
- Why is Harambee contained in the first place? I’m not a zoo person. I went to zoos when I was younger, like many of my peers, but as I got older I realized I didn’t like the way animals were treated. I put myself in their place. How would I like being ripped out of my natural habitat to live in a concrete cell most of my life? Or even worse, being born in a concrete cell and never getting to experience nature. Yes, some zoos do a lot to help preserve endangered species and there are research and conservation programs in place but I can’t get past the entertainment factor of it all.
Some people have responded to the situation by creating a petition on change.org. They believe the parents of the child should be held responsible for the death of Harambee.
Personally, I think there should be an investigation into the matter to determine if the parents were watching their child and this was simply and accident or if there was neglect. Additionally I think the zoo needs to check and reinforce every enclosure to ensure that this never occurs again. They should also have mandatory training programs and have tranquilizer guns available near every enclosure.
Do you think the parents of the child should be held responsible for the death of Harambee? What can we do to prevent this from happening in the future?
*Feature photo originally posted on Instagram by @deerodgers1991