Tuesday, May 31, 2016
The Boy or the Gorilla: A No Brainer
Officials of the Cincinnati Zoo had an easy, but difficult, choice Saturday. They would have liked to save Harambe, the beloved 17 year old Western Lowland Gorilla, but the life of a three year old boy was at risk. The zoo had no choice. They could not let the boy die. Whatever uproar exists now over the shooting of Harambe is as naught compared to the uproar that would have arisen had they let the gorilla intentionally, or unintentionally, killed the child. Animal rights cannot trump human life, especially that of a child. The child invaded Harambe’s home, such as it is. The gorilla did nothing to entice the three year old to disobey his mother, climb a three foot railing, walkthrough bushes, and then fall 15’ into a shallow moat. The gorilla did nothing wrong. He was acting on instinct. The initial video showed him holding the child. That seemed a warm, loving act. Then the crowd started yelling and screaming. Harambe apparently started to panic. He brusquely dragged the boy through the water. The full video showed it all. The bot’s life was at stake! Even if the mother were neglectful, which I doubt, the boy’s life was at stake. Even if the zoo’s enclosure was inadequate, the boy’s life was at stake. Even if we shouldn’t have zoos, or aquariums, or animal circus acts, the boy’s life was at stake. The zoo had no choice. Even if the 17 year old Harambe was not yet in the prime of his life, the boy’s life was at stake. The zoo had no choice. Even if Michael A. Budkie of Cincinnati’s Stop Animal Exploitation Now is right claiming the zoo violated the Animal Welfare Act, the boy’s life was at stake. The zoo had no choice. Even if almost 100,000 persons signed a “Justice for Harambe” petition in less than 24 hours, the boy’s life was at stake. The police are now investigating the child’s parents for possible criminal violations, presumably “child endangerment.” That investigation will go nowhere. By all witness accounts, the mother was momentarily distracted, the mother was not neglectful. Parents know that in the split second a parent’s attention can be distracted the little “angel” will find mischief. Parents, no matter how careful, cannot watch their children 86,400 seconds a day, every day, every week, every month. The zoo had no choice. No gorilla whisperer existed. Tranquilizers would have taken too long. Harambe was agitated. The zoo had no rational choice. “Justice for Harmbe” sounds like a cry for “justice’ by those with prejudged views about what the outcome should be. That’s not justice. Harambe’s genes will live on. His sperm had been harvested to be placed in a gorilla sperm bank. The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden had no more choice than the san Francisco Zoo on December 25, 2007. Three young men under the influence of marijuana having also drank alcohol and entered the San Francisco Zoo near closing time. 9/11 calls soon came in that a tiger was loose in the Zoo. Tatiana, a 4 year old Siberian Tiger had attacked the three, killing one and clutching a second. The police had no choice but to shoot Tatiana. Although not definitely proven, strong evidence existed that the three youths, aged 17, 19, and 23, had taunted the tiger. Pine cones and sticks were found in the tiger pen. They did not get there through natural forces. Tatiana was apparently upset. The necropsy showed concrete chippings under her paw. She apparently climbed out of the pen. Perhaps the Cincinnati Zoo had an insufficient barrier. The San Francisco Zoo’s moot wall was inadequate. The standards of the American Zoological Association called for a 16.5’ high wall. The Zoo initially claimed the tiger wall was 18’ high. Investigation showed that it was only12.5’ high. The Zoo settled with the surviving brothers for $900,000 and then with the family of the deceased for an undisclosed sum. If the Cincinnati Zoo’s barrier is proven to have been deficient under professional standards, then a settlement might also be reached if the parents bring a lawsuit. Zoos may have to reassess their barriers, but will probably not return to the earlier days when the animals were kept in small metal, brick or concrete cages. Today’s zoos aim to present a more natural environ for the animals. The tradeoff is less safety. Nothing will bring Harambe back, but the boy lives.