This page was first published on the 6th of June, 2016 and last updated on the 6th of June, 2016 by Patrick Carpen.
Did they really “have” to kill Harambe?
If they didn’t kill the gorilla, then the possibility remained at every second that the gorilla could have killed or otherwise harm the child. And that possibility needed to be eliminated.
On the 28th of May, 2016, a family with a three-year-old boy was visiting a Cincinnati zoo. They stopped to look at a rare, endangered species of gorilla. While his parents were looking the other way, the boy somehow managed to slip under a rail and fell into the gorilla’s enclosure.
A video footage captured by a cellphone camera of one of the onlookers at the time showed the gorilla’s interaction with the child. It may appear that the gorilla had no intentions of harming the child, or even that it was acting in a protective manner, as you can see from the video below.
There have been several incidents, decades ago, of children falling into a gorillas’ enclosure. And the reactions of those gorillas were benign, sometimes protective. So why did this gorilla, Harambe, in the video above, drag the child so violently in the water? Perhaps it heard an outburst from the crowd of onlookers and felt it needed to move the child to a safer place. Who knows?
Not too long after, the gorilla was shot dead by what was applauded as “the swift actions of the zookeepers”. But was the action really swift? And more than that, was it a responsible or wise action? The truth: we will never know.
Thousands of people have condemned the action of the zookeepers in killing the gorilla, claiming that there were other measures that could have been taken that didn’t involve the shedding of blood. The zoo maintains “it was a tough decision, but looking back, we would do the same thing again”.
But were the guards at the Cincinnati zoo wrong in killing the rare gorilla? If anything, it was a tough call. If they didn’t kill the gorilla, then the possibility remained at every second that the gorilla could have killed or otherwise harm the child. And that possibility needed to be eliminated.
Indeed, it breaks my heart to think of the gorilla’s death. Indeed, I wish that they had successfully pursued other measures than shooting. But what if the child had somehow been killed or maimed by the gorilla? What kind of criticisms and condemnation would the authorities of zoo have come under then? Their sloth? Their lack of action? Their putting a gorilla’s life above a human life?
For these reasons, inasmuch as I mourn for the gorilla’s death, I stand in support of the guards’ decision to fire at the time they did. As difficult a decision as it was to have made, it was a necessary, human one.