On a Gorilla

Image from the Cincinnati Zoo

Image from the Cincinnati Zoo

The recent incident at the Cincinnati Zoo is known throughout the world. Because I proudly wear my Cincinnati heart on my blogging adventures, I’m sure I popped into the mind of many readers when they heard the news.

What happened here was tragic on many levels. I can’t image the terror in the mother’s mind – let alone what the child was thinking when with a large gorilla so close. Zoo officials hurt – and the members of the zoo’s response team must have extremely heavy hearts.
We hear about the incident everyday on the local news outlets, let alone the information we receive online. There is a lot of finger-pointing, shaming, and general noise by many from all corners of the world – which include death threats to the parents, harassment to a bystander who witnessed the event, countless comments of various degrees in social media, and this editorial by the Toledo Blade shamed its own zoo direction and called for boycotting “all things Cincinnati” as well as firing our zoo director. Bottom line, most of the crap is noise by clueless people.
I’ve never been a parent, but I imagine many parents have had moments when a child gets away – that is, creating a “bad parent” situation – such as the child who almost gets hit by a car or gets into something they shouldn’t be. That has to happen to many – but I acknowledge, maybe not to this extreme.
This is a sad and unfortunate situation – one when zoo officials were placed into a lose-lose situation – and chose to do something they are against doing. Although I admit my first thought was wondering a phrase starting with, “how could the parent” – I continue having a difficult time with the mere thought of charging the mother with a crime – and I still have the deepest thoughts for the zoo employees who absolutely love animals.
The words below are from an editorial in the Cincinnati Enquirer written by Opinion Editor Cindi Andrews. They were meaningful to me when I read them on 31 May and they are still meaningful today.
Amid the blame and social noise, let’s pause to be thankful that the child is OK and to truly mourn the loss of another life, not so different from a human one. That doesn’t happen on a smartphone or a computer. It happens quietly, perhaps by remembering a past trip to the zoo or thinking about our relationship with the animal kingdom.
Let us remember in our thoughts and prayers those zoo workers who knew Harambe so much better than us, and had to witness or even have a hand in his death. As a child wrote in a sympathy card left at the zoo: “We are so sad that you had to kill one of your gorillas – we love the gorillas.”
In Harambe’s memory, let’s take a moment to let go of anger and simply be sad.
As the finger pointers, shames, blamers, and cranks concentrate their efforts on the mother, Cincinnati Zoo, the zoo’s director, I find it interesting that these same people are very quiet the bigger issues at hand – the protection of gorillas in the wild, action against poachers and hunters, the protection of their nature habitat from logging, farming, mining, and other forms of human expansion.
To close this post, I’m linking several resources that confront the issues I mentioned above – World Wildlife Fund, Mbeli Bais Study, and the newly formed Harambe Fund – but personally, I’ll still dealing with the impact of the actual situation on me. So, I close with two readings from the Cincinnati Enquirer and one from the Cincinnati Zoo.
Advertisements

76 thoughts on “On a Gorilla

    • Jim,
      Second guessing is the human way. If the zoo would have done something different, the same naysayers would be complaining about something else. Meanwhile, I agree … the officials have a difficult decision and made the correct one.

      Like

  1. Thoughtful and insightful, as usual. Thanks for adding some sanity to the noise in the social and news media concerns that are being raised, that are not addressing the loss, that are trying to place blame where none really belongs. Bad things happen. It helps to mourn.

    Like

  2. While scrolling FB today I saw a photo with the comment from Harambe, I died the day they put me in a cage. I like animals, seeing them in the zoo is probably the only way I’ll get to see them live but it’s still cruel. You’re right where is the outrage for the wild animals dying in their natural habitats and those rich poachers killing extinct animals for sport. As you say it’s a sad incident.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My friend, Milton, told me, Frank, that the mother runs a daycare business. If that’s true, I bet she’s lost customers. Milton and I are both having difficulty wrapping our brains around this gorilla’s tragic death. We look back on how we were raised in the 1960s when our mothers had both of us on such short leashes, just the thought of taking one small step away from her resulted in a swift yank and a scolding. I think that modern parents are much more permissive and if this mother had better control of her kid, Harambe would still be alive.

    Then again, the other day I was in Times Square riding on a crowded up escalator at rush hour, when a father’s 4 or 5 year old son decided on his own that he was going to make a break for it and leave Daddy in the dust. I was aware of the father’s distress, I reacted quickly, blocked the live wire in his tracks and said, “Let’s wait for Daddy.” Daddy caught up and thanked me profusely. I’ve only read the early stories about Harambe, but if there were other adults who saw that kid take off that could have stopped him, it’s a shame they didn’t. Clearly, there were no aggressive, quick thinking New Yorkers around.

    I would not fine or jail the mother, and I don’t blame the zoo officials; they did what they had to do to ensure the child was not hurt. They were really stuck between a rock and a hard place. I think anyone that chooses to boycott “all things Cincinnati” because of this tragedy is adding to the problem. If anything, this sorrowful incident should be a wake-up call to parents to keep a closer eye on their kids, to ensure they don’t fall into the pit of public outrage like that mother.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lame,
      There is a lot to wrap around in this situation, and you have touched on some of them. Cheers to you stepping into action regarding the little guy making a break. Yes – a good question is that of the people around at the time, how did others not notice. To be fair, I’m not sure how many were around at the time of the kids breakaway.

      I see the headlines that the prosecutor decided not to press charges against the mother. I had an inkling that would happen because it’s a tough burden to prove in this state.

      In terms of the Boycott Cincinnati suggestion in the Toledo Blade, I encourage you to read the editorial (and I will withhold my opinion of my thoughts as a whole). It’s linked in this post.

      Meanwhile, hope all is well, and Hello to Milton.

      Like

    • Cynthia,
      A simple and pertinent question. To me, the answer revolves around human nature’s love for passing the buck, and for the modern-day display of reality shows that promote blaming others who skirting responsibility. Thanks for making a great point in a simple way!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was really looking forward to your thoughts, Frank, and I think you’ve spoken well and with reasonable balance. It is just a very sad situation. Whether a person has had personal experience with children or not, we’ve all had lapses in judgment, or taking an action that we later realize could have resulted in calamity, and most of us have experienced accidents of one kind or another. Finger pointing in this situation is simple foolishness. I was interested in Jane Goodall’s response. She acknowledged it as a very sad consequence, but didn’t blame the parents. She showed concern for the other gorillas, hoping they’d been allowed to grieve. I can’t imagine blaming the zoo administrators. That’s unconscionable in my estimation. Had the child been harmed in any way, let alone killed, they’d never recover. And yes, I immediately thought of you when I heard the story! I’m sure you feel a very personal loss as well.

    Like

    • Debra,
      This situation is sad on many levels, and probably one of the few good points is that the child is OK. Knowing that I promote my Cincinnati existence, I realized I had no choice but to comment on the issue. I can say that my position didn’t evolve, but over time, it deepened. The fact that I took the time to think puts me at an advantage over the quick-response reactionaries.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well said Frank. I’m one of those helicopter parents that people sneer at. Or was. They’re all grown up now. But even I’ve had my share of near escapes.
    The zoo keepers had five minutes to decide whose life to save. They have my sympathy as does the boy’s mum.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well put, Frank. Finger pointing is …pointless, to say the least – not to mention how stupid it is boycotting Cincinnati altogether. However, you know my point of view on zoos anywhere in the world. Animals should live in their natural habitats. I doubt we’d appreciate being behind glass walls for another entity to …study us!
    Happy June, my dear friend! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You did a good job with this difficult subject, Frank. I honestly did not read too much about it because I was getting too upset by both the incident and the blaming. You are right that many people who expressed outraged do not seem so concerned about other animals or gorillas in other places–although I don’t want to point a finger! Thank you for the links.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for such a thoughtful post, Frank, on such a tragic and sad topic. I read the links too, which gives some perspective on the incident. Still, I just feel so deeply saddened by the incident which was certainly a lose-lose situation.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lynn,
      Definitely a lose-lose situation, which was something the cranks don’t realize. Because you read the links, I also linked the editorial in the Toledo newspaper … but I won’t comment in case you read it. Thanks for the kind words.

      Like

  9. Love your perspective on this, Frank. It’s just a tragedy in every respect, with the devastating loss of an incredible creature. Focusing on the protection of gorillas whether in captivity or not is a sensible, positive thing to do after all the blaming. Still can’t help but wonder how on earth the child was even able to get into the gorilla’s enclosure.

    Like

    • Kelly,
      This situation is definitely not one of those feel-good times. Thankfully, the boy is OK … and (just news), Mom isn’t facing prosecution. Regarding the kid, not only did he get away from Mom, but other bystanders also didn’t notice him.

      Liked by 1 person

        • I like what the Zoo Director said … barriers are climbable for those who chose to get over them. To me, that places the responsibility squarely where it should be – on the visitor.

          Like

        • Yes… and I believe the parents are responsible for their kids’ actions, but there are irresponsible parents out there so enclosures shouldn’t be scaleable by a 4 year old! I wish it was a perfect world as well! 🙂

          Like

        • I saw on the news this morning that they reinforced the enclosure – added netting and raised the barrier or something…apparently it’s a bit challenging to provide good viewing and safety at the same time for all zoos, and advances in safety are always evolving… like the netting that’s being used now which they said would have caught the child if it was in place. Just thankful the little boy is okay! 🙂

          Like

  10. Wonderful, clear-headed take as always, Frank. Imagine the terror that mother felt watching her baby being dragged around by a gorilla. No matter how the child got in, that had to be gut-wrenching. It also must have been highly traumatic for other zoo-goers to see. Just watching the video was almost too much for me.

    It’s very sad to lose the gorilla who was only doing what gorillas do, but the zookeepers needed to do what they felt was best in the situation. They are the animal experts, and thank God they saved the little boy. As you mention, they had a lose-lose situation. Imagine if they would have tried tranquilizing the gorilla but before it took effect he killed the child. How horrible that would have been. I do sometimes get baffled by the outrage things like this cause when human lives are stomped out all over the world from tyranny and yet their deaths barely generate a blink of the eye.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Good post, Frank. I have found in general that when those who don’t know the issues decide to criticize, they are vocalizing feelings of insecurity. My heart goes out to the zoo workers and the rational people of Cincinnati. I think the child that left the sympathy card said it all.

    Like

  12. Being disabled I could never run after my kids if they took off, so they were on a short leash and knew very well of my limitations. Middle child though was a handful, I even went so far one summer and bought a leash for her! So I completely understand this mother’s situation, she turned around to deal with another child, and in a blink of an eye, the other climbed the fence. If anyone is to blame, it would be the zoo, for not having tested the safety of their enclosure. It’s like toys, all should be tested by a child of the age it is for. Kids are amazing with their skill and determination even at a very young age.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Catherine,
      Thanks for sharing your personal story that adds substance to the situation. Regarding the zoo, the has standards itself … plus there are outside agency that inspect the standards. But as the zoo director said, if someone choses to climb a fence, they can. In this case, the kid made a decision … although a poor one … and I’m not saying the kid should know better.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Such a sad situation no matter how you look at it. Too bad Harambe didn’t know sign language like another gorilla named Koko. If he did they wouldn’t have had to second guess what he might do and could have just asked him. Hopefully the zoo will beef up the barriers around their exhibits to prevent anyone from slipping through in the future. Common sense prevented even the smallest children from attempting to climb into a zoo animal enclosure in my youth – and in all of the zoos we ever visited it could have easily been done yet no-one ever did. Sadly common sense is no longer common, one more thing left in the past.

    Like

  14. It was a very unfortunate event….had the decision been something else, fingers would still raise.
    I had read newes about people getting inside lion enclaves to click a picture with lions. In one case the lion killed the man and another time the lion was shot.
    In both the cases everyone had their opinions. Its truly sad what happened to the gorilla. But it was unavoidable in that situation I guess.

    Like

  15. Well done Frank, always you are a sane voice in a crowd of rabble rousers and trouble makers. It was a sad incident, fascinating though that there was an immediate need to point fingers, who was to blame for this?

    Having raised two boys, my first response was, ‘the bad azzed boy’.

    Like

    • Val,
      The reactions about this incident has been all over the map … and many haven’t been sensible. On the other hand, a letter to the editor in today’s paper delivery a similar tone to this post. Meanwhile, I encourage you to read the editorial from the Toledo paper.

      Like

  16. I always appreciate coming here for your thoughtful, reasoned posts and for the high caliber comments. It takes me a while to read through everything, but it’s well worth it. I typically stay as far away from the news as possible, but some stories find their way into my Zeitgeist. This was one of them.

    Much has been said, and I won’t repeat it. I don’t need or want to.

    I simply wish to put out there my fervent hope that we, as species sharing the planet with the dwindling number of other species, can learn something from this (and other) “sad,” “tragic,” “unfortunate,” “disastrous” (or whatever adjective-of-the-day-expressing-chagrin), but clearly preventable and irreparably damaging way we treat this precious place upon which we live.

    Wow, that was way too long a sentence!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lorna,
      Thanks for the kind words and for sharing your thoughts. As our population grows, we (as a species) are pushing others out of the way for our needs. Sometimes I wonder if we (as a whole) understand the ecological net that exists and why it exists.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I find it quite the paradox that we (as humans) have the capacity to be self and other aware, yet we aren’t (as a rule) anxious to peer into the depths of ourselves or try to understand the complexities of how we fit in the matrix of life. Many of us are interested enough in ourselves to be egocentric, but not self-aware. Quite the conundrum, eh?

        Like

  17. Hi Frank, Your post was very thoughtful, as were most of the comments.

    Kids do stupid things, and young ones do them even though they don’t know they are stupid things to do. So many people don’t know kids, or don’t remember their kids doing those death-defying things that most of them — especially little boys — do. Parents who claim otherwise have selective or faulty memories.

    Had they not shot Harambe and the boy been killed or disabled, the outcry would have been equally outraged. It was a lose-lose situation.

    I have mixed opinions about zoos. On the one hand it is cruel to keep wild animals captives (although zoos have improved certainly in my lifetime). On the other, they are opportunities to educate people about the existence and wonder of these animals. Would we even care to preserve them in the wild if we never saw them in captivity? Somehow I doubt it.

    Like

Comment with respect.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s