Harambe and the GorillaLivesMatter Movement that needs tranquilizing

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Over the weekend, social media was abuzz with outrage over the killing of Harambe, a 17-year-old male Western lowland silverback gorilla.

There’s a “gorillalivesmatter” movement afoot, including the hashtag #JusticeForHarambe.

Just look at the comment from some moral dullard named Edwin Morales as example:

Awful Huffpost! Because of the mother’s lack of vigilance and attention towards her own child, this Gorilla had to die. Putting humans lives over animals is never right, especially not after that gorilla was taken away from his home to be shown off to the world as part of some circus (zoo)

Initial reaction of social media activists was to

1. Deplore the zoo for keeping animals entrapped in the first place.
2. Blame the mom/parents.
3. Blame the Cincinnati Zoo for not having better barriers in place.
4. Question why didn’t the zoo use tranquilizer guns instead.
5. Claim Harambe probably would not have hurt the child.

I’ve read a lot of comments from the morally outraged who assume careless parenting. I’ve seen some writing, “Get off the cell phone” without even knowing what the mother was doing at the time her son slipped through the barrier.

The site has crashed, but a blogpost worth reading for the Monday morning moms: My kid would never fall into a gorilla pit because I’m an attentive parent and other lies we tell ourselves .

Slate also has an article questioning the parental shame-blame over empathy:

people—with their aversion to uncertainty and villianless tragedy—need someone to blame and are targeting the boy’s parents with their ire.

A petition on Change.org with more than 300,000 signatures states the following:

This beautiful gorilla lost his life because the boy’s parents did not keep a closer watch on the child. We the undersigned believe that the child would not have been able to enter the enclosure under proper parental supervision. … We the undersigned want the parents to be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life. We the undersigned feel the child’s safety is paramount in this situation. …We the undersigned actively encourage an investigation of the child’s home environment in the interests of protecting the child and his siblings from further incidents of parental negligence that may result in serious bodily harm or even death.

This condemnation of the parents is making its way around social media, too. Comedian Ricky Gervais—not, last I checked, a primatologist—tweeted: “It seems that some gorillas make better parents than some people.” It has more than 5,000 retweets and 11,000 likes. D.L. Hughley tweeted that he thinks the boys’ parents should go to jail. There’s a meme that reads: “I was killed because a bitch wasn’t watching her child.” And de Waal concludes his popular Facebook post with: “At least, we can all agree that people should watch their children!” There are those, including PETA, who are criticizing the zoo for failing to have an adequate barrier around the gorilla enclosure. But that critique is gaining less traction than the one focused on the boy’s parents.

Children can’t always be watched, even by the most competent of parents. I am also a mother of a 3-year-old boy and have had to take my eyes off of him in a public setting for a variety of reasons, many of which involve digging through the bottom of the stroller to locate sunscreen or his water bottle. Other times it’s to assess oncoming traffic or to find the cereal he absolutely must eat in the morning. The brief absence of surveillance involves a calculated risk, sure, but it’s one parents must take in order to take care of their families. While I can’t speak about the competence of the parents of the boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure, I can say with certainty that there is no parent out there who has never looked away from his or her child for even a moment.

Michelle Gregg is identified as the mother. She had posted an FB response to the backlash; but has since deleted it.


Eyewitness Deirdre Lykins’ account:

I was taking a pic of the female gorilla, when my eldest son yells, “what is he doing? ” I looked down, and to my surprise, there was a small child that had apparently, literally “flopped” over the railing, where there was then about 3 feet of ground that the child quickly crawled through! ! I assumed the woman next to me was the mother, getting ready to grab him until she says, “Whose kid is this? ” None of us actually thought he’d go over the nearly 15 foot drop, but he was crawling so fast through the bushes before myself or husband could grab him, he went over! The crowed got a little frantic and the mother was calling for her son. Actually, just prior to him going over, but she couldn’t see him crawling through the bushes! She said “He was right here! I took a pic and his hand was in my back pocket and then gone!” As she could find him nowhere, she lookes to my husband (already over the railing talking to the child) and asks, “Sir, is he wearing green shorts? ” My husband reluctantly had to tell her yes, when she then nearly had a break down! They are both wanting to go over into the 15 foot drop, when I forbade my husband to do so, and attempted to calm the mother by calling 911 and assure her help was on the way. Neither my husband or the mother would have made that jump without breaking something! I wasn’t leaving with my boys, because I didn’t trust my husband not to jump in and the gorilla did just seem to be protective of the child. It wasn’t until the gorilla became agitated because of the nosey, dramatic, helpless crowd; that the gorilla violently ran with the child! And it was very violent; although I think the gorilla was still trying to protect, we’re taking a 400 lb gorilla throwing a 40 lb toddler around! It was horrific! The zoo responded very quickly, clearing the area and attempting to save both the child and the gorilla! The right choice was made. Thank God the child survived with non-life threatening, but serious injuries! This was an open exhibit! Which means the only thing separating you from the gorillas, is a 15 ish foot drop and a moat and some bushes! ! This mother was not negligent and the zoo did an awesome job handling the situation! Especially since that had never happened before! ! Thankful for the zoo and their attempts and my thoughts and prayers goes out to this boy, his mother and his family.


Another witness, Brittany Nicely, told the Cincinnati Enquirer, “Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the little boy in the bushes past the little fence area. I tried to grab for him. I started yelling at him to come back. Everybody started screaming and going crazy. It happened so fast.”

Lykins defended Gregg, writing on Facebook, “This was an accident! ! A terrible accident, but just that!”

The zoo’s director said he doesn’t like to point fingers during a press conference Monday, and also appeared to defend the mother.

“Do you know any four-year-olds? They can climb over anything,” director Thane Maynard told reporters.

Now social media activists are harassing other Facebook users named “Michelle Gregg”. Check out a couple of funny profile picture changes these women made.

3. According to the Director, the barriers are sound and in “compliance with federal regulations and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums”. Of course, they will be looking into ways to further strengthen the barriers in light of what happened.

5. Some, like PETA’s Julia Gallucci, claim

that the gorilla was likely trying to nurture the tot.

“Gorillas have shown that they can be protective of smaller living beings and react the same way any human would to a child in danger,” Gallucci said.

“Consider Binti Jua, the gorilla who carried a child to a zookeeper’s gate,” Gallucci added, referring to a 1996 incident in which an 8-year-old female gorilla named Binti Jua protected a 3-year-old from other primates after the toddler fell into a gorilla den at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.

If this were your child, would you gamble on the assumption that a wild, unpredictable animal- and that’s what gorillas are- would not harm the 3 year old? There may be a chance that Harambe would not; but would you as custodians of the zoo, as parents of that child, be willing to gamble upon that risk? It would only take a second of carelessness for that 450 lb gorilla to kill the 3 year old boy, whether intentionally or by accident.

People want to point out that it appeared Harambe was trying to protect or nurture or pet the boy; hold him by the hand.

One of the people who filmed the situation, Kim O’Connor, claims it appeared Harambe was trying to protect Isaiah, the 3 year old boy.  That’s according to some selective accounts.  O’Connor also said this:

she was filming the terrifying incident with help from her niece – but turned the camera off when Harambe pulled the boy onto the cement portion of the exhibit.

“I was frozen in fear, it was too traumatic to be on camera,” she says. “What you don’t see is the way he pulled the boy up the wall. He was treating the little boy like a Raggedy Ann doll in his grip.”

“He moved him around side to side, behind him. He scooped him up to his belly sitting down. The boy tried to scoot away and he pulled him right back in,” says O’Connor. “Something spooked [the animal] and he dragged the boy across the cement exhibit to another cover area where he couldn’t get away. He had the boy underneath him between his legs.”

Another bystander filmed a longer footage, you see Harambe dragging the boy around through the water like a Raggedy-Anne doll.

4. Why not tranquilizers? No immediate effect with no guarantee how Harambe would have responded.

During a news conference Monday, Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard said that Harambe was “clearly disoriented” and “acting erratically.” Once zookeepers realized that the boy was in the exhibit, he said, they used special calls to clear the area of gorillas; all of them responded except Harambe.

“He was stimulated and excited,” Maynard said, adding that shooting the gorilla with a tranquilizer, which might not take effect for several minutes, would only have caused panic in the animal.

“You can’t take a risk with a silverback gorilla,” he said. “We’re talking about animal that with one hand can take a coconut and crush it.” Maynard described the gorilla’s killing as “a big loss,” but he said the boy’s safety was paramount. He called critics of the zoo’s decision “Monday morning quarterbacks” who “don’t understand primate biology.”

“We stand by our decision,” he said. “We’d make the same decision today.”

No one feels worse about the loss than the ones who have cared for Harambe:

‘We are heartbroken about losing Harambe, but a child’s life was in danger and a quick decision had to be made.’

He supported the zoo’s dangerous animal response team for their decision to kill Harambe, and said: ‘They made a tough choice and they made the right choice because they saved that little boy’s life.’

During Monday’s press conference, Maynard said he wasn’t there to ‘point fingers’ but said: ‘We all need to work to make sure our families are safe.’

‘We’re the ones who took the loss on this- you can trust me, a lot of people expressed concerns, but it doesn’t affect anyone as much as the people at the zoo.

‘This is a very big loss to the zoo- not just an emotional loss, but a loss to a key conservation and breeding program.’

Jane Goodall, Jack Hanna…these animal lovers and zoo experts have come out in support of the Cincinnati Zoo, saying they made the right call. Of course endangered gorillas’ lives matter- in part why they are kept in wildlife preserves. Of course everyone should feel awful for the loss of Harambe’s life. None of this was through any fault of his. But….

If Isaiah were your 3 year old, how would you have felt?

Human lives matter, too.

18 Responses to “Harambe and the GorillaLivesMatter Movement that needs tranquilizing”

  1. 1

    another vet

    The bottom line is the kid’s safety. No one can say for sure what the gorilla was going to do. The only sure fire way to have prevented it from killing or causing great bodily harm to the kid was to do what the zoo officials did. It’s unfortunate that the kid suffered the injuries and that the gorilla had to be killed. However, had the zoo officials not did what they did and the kid would have been killed, imagine the outrage.

    Unfortunately, 3 years olds will be 3 year olds, gorillas will be gorillas, and irresponsible parents will be irresponsible parents. Yes, the parents are to blame for the entire incident. There have probably been tens of thousands of little kids who have gone through that zoo, but their kid is the only one who ended up in the gorilla pit. How many people have gone home after visiting a zoo and told their friends and relatives, “We went to the zoo today and little Johnny managed to get in the gorilla pit”?

  2. 2

    MOS #8541

    a silver back is up to 350#. for the average seriously obese American this is nothing compared to 400# humans. the idiot has not appointed a czar for obesity in seven years. if it obvious that Julia Gallucci is looking for press time. like all demorat’s it is always the other person’s responsibility. spin ball pervert billy is a prime example this media propaganda. similar to the rules of engagement in the military, by the time the soldier is given permission to engage he is buried with military honors back home. Julia Gallucci, the only safe place is in your narcissistic head. videoing a gorilla smashing a child’s head against a concrete wall would have created a different spin for the media and peta. being politically correct is believing in you own bullshit. an incident has occurred: investigate it, recognize the reasons for it occurring, correct the reasons for the incident, monitor the corrections and move forward. Improvise, Adapt, Overcome-November 10, 1775. Marion Sturkey noted in his book: “any fool can toot his own horn. It means nothing. Any self serving dolt can praise himself. Again, it means nothing.” the time is to correct the variables and fix them so that another accident does not occur.

  3. 3

    Common Sense

    The whole argument is crazy. No matter the circumstances of the mother and control, the gorilla needed to go down. He was clearly agitated and a tranquilizer is not instant.

  4. 4


    Ya tranquilize it then have a drunken agitated 400 lb gorilla with a 3 year old child, no the creature had to be neutralized and quickly.
    This was not some poor captured animal he was born in captivity the keepers knew this animal, they made the call and the child is alive.
    Perhaps all captive born gorillas should be trained to fling children back over the barrier cause this is not the first kid that got into a gorilla enclosure.

  5. 5


    Jack Hanna – He said it was the right call. A room full of men cannot subdue an adult male chimp. The power of a silverback gorilla is several orders of magnitude stronger than a chimp. A tranquilizer takes about 5-10 minutes to have an effect. It was the right call.

    In essence, no need to turn this into another political saga or engage in overwrought handwringing by others.

  6. 6



    And here come the nutjob leeches wanting to hijack the focus and make it about their pet activist agenda:

    At the moment, the general public is demonstrating more compassion toward a gorilla than toward Black people who were (are!) gunned down by police at an alarming rate in this country. Harambe is mourned more (com)passionately than the Black humans with whom gorillas have historically and degradingly been compared. Harambe’s death by shooting—an isolated, logical decision—is, apparently, less acceptable than the systemized, institutionally-protected and -reinforced deaths of Samuel DuBose and Paul Gaston by bullets, just the same. When Black people are killed by cops, whether in Cincinnati or anywhere else in the U.S., it is “what’s supposed to happen,” and so: no outrage. When a gorilla, due to a random, unforeseen event, is killed by zookeepers, hearts bleed. How can we be so misguidedly selective about the bodies we invest compassion in?

    Luckily, compassion is a limitless resource. We don’t have to choose between loving people and loving non-human animals, between demanding some meaningful outcome of Harambe’s death and demanding a full renovation of our supposed justice system. The reason that more compassion is being shown toward Harambe than toward Black people—those named above and multitudinous others—is simply that while Americans are encouraged from infancy to love and honor animals, we are taught from that same early age, regardless of our race, that Black people are something less than human. Apparently, maybe something even less than animal.

    And here’s another one:

    hijacking the topic

  7. 7

    Richard Wheeler

    I blame the mother–The Gorilla might well take better care of the kid than she did–probably smarter as well.
    She should be prosecuted for child endangerment.
    This 13 year old gorilla wasn’t bothering anyone and if not for this negligent mother would be alive today.
    Obviously this doesn’t have a damn thing to do with treatment of Black people.

  8. 8



    I think it’s a bit of a rush to judgment to blame the mother. Was she negligent? Maybe. But in life, things can happen in a flash. How many parents have lost a child to a tragic event? And on the surface, to an event that “Monday morning quarterbacks” will claim, “That never would have happened to me.”?

    Hat tip to Aye Chihuahua on this

    I am going to try to clear up a few things that have been weighing on me about Harambe and the Cinci Zoo since I read the news this afternoon.
    I have worked with Gorillas as a zookeeper while in my twenties (before children) and they are my favorite animal (out of dozens) that I have ever worked closely with. I am gonna go ahead and list a few facts, thoughts and opinions for those of you that aren’t familiar with the species itself, or how a zoo operates in emergency situations.

    Now Gorillas are considered ‘gentle giants’ at least when compared with their more aggressive cousins the chimpanzee, but a 400+ pound male in his prime is as strong as roughly 10 adult humans. What can you bench press? OK, now multiply that number by ten. An adult male silverback gorilla has one job, to protect his group. He does this by bluffing or intimidating anything that he feels threatened by.

    Gorillas are considered a Class 1 mammal, the most dangerous class of mammals in the animal kingdom, again, merely due to their size and strength. They are grouped in with other apes, tigers, lions, bears, etc.
    While working in an AZA accredited zoo with Apes, keepers DO NOT work in contact with them. Meaning they do NOT go in with these animals. There is always a welded mesh barrier between the animal and the humans.
    In more recent decades, zoos have begun to redesign enclosures, removing all obvious caging and attempting to create a seamless view of the animals for the visitor to enjoy watching animals in a more natural looking habitat. *this is great until little children begin falling into exhibits* which of course can happen to anyone, especially in a crowded zoo-like setting.

    I have watched this video over again, and with the silverback’s postering, and tight lips, it’s pretty much the stuff of any keeper’s nightmares, and I have had MANY while working with them. This job is not for the complacent. Gorillas are kind, curious, and sometimes silly, but they are also very large, very strong animals. I always brought my OCD to work with me. checking and rechecking locks to make sure my animals and I remained separated before entering to clean.

    I keep hearing that the Gorilla was trying to protect the boy. I do not find this to be true. Harambe reaches for the boys hands and arms, but only to position the child better for his own displaying purposes.
    Males do very elaborate displays when highly agitated, slamming and dragging things about. Typically they would drag large branches, barrels and heavy weighted balls around to make as much noise as possible. Not in an effort to hurt anyone or anything (usually) but just to intimidate. It was clear to me that he was reacting to the screams coming from the gathering crowd.

    Harambe was most likely not going to separate himself from that child without seriously hurting him first (again due to mere size and strength, not malicious intent) Why didn’t they use treats? well, they attempted to call them off exhibit (which animals hate), the females in the group came in, but Harambe did not. What better treat for a captive animal than a real live kid!
    They didn’t use Tranquilizers for a few reasons, A. Harambe would’ve taken too long to become immobilized, and could have really injured the child in the process as the drugs used may not work quickly enough depending on the stress of the situation and the dose B. Harambe would’ve have drowned in the moat if immobilized in the water, and possibly fallen on the boy trapping him and drowning him as well.
    Many zoos have the protocol to call on their expertly trained dart team in the event of an animal escape or in the event that a human is trapped with a dangerous animal. They will evaluate the scene as quickly and as safely as possible, and will make the most informed decision as how they will handle the animal.
    I can’t point fingers at anyone in this situation, but we need to really evaluate the safety of the animal enclosures from the visitor side. Not impeding that view is a tough one, but there should be no way that someone can find themselves inside of an animal’s exhibit.
    I know one thing for sure, those keepers lost a beautiful, and I mean gorgeous silverback and friend. I feel their loss with them this week. As educators and conservators of endangered species, all we can do is shine a light on the beauty and majesty of these animals in hopes to spark a love and a need to keep them from vanishing from our planet. Child killers, they are not. It’s unfortunate for the conservation of the species, and the loss of revenue a beautiful zoo such as Cinci will lose. tragedy all around.:

  9. 9

    Nanny G

    We used to have an animal rescue park in So Cal.
    One person finally gave up on their chimp and put it in there.
    But they visited it all the time.
    One visit the animal tore the owner up, biting off hands and feet and ripping the face off.
    And that was of the person who raised it.

    Experts cannot predict animal behavior.
    If they predicted wrongly that the child would have been safe and then the animal killed or maimed it, who would be getting sued?
    It was a sad thing to have to do but it had to be done, killing the gorilla.

  10. 10

    Richard Wheeler

    @Wordsmith: I thank Aye Chi for “shedding a light on the beauty and majesty of this animal”—Certainly miss A.C.’s presence at F.A. You 2 guys and the wonderful Mata Harley are what brought me here—-then there was one.

  11. 11

    Robert What?

    If I am not mistaken, the mother had seven small children with her. If that is correct (I think) we can all agree that one adult for seven small children on a trip to the zoo is inadequate.

  12. 12


    The PARENTS are responsible. Whom else? Perhaps it is too early to lay blame but the children are the parent’s responsibility.

    Unless it is a solid barrier, any fence or railing cannot be made idiot-proof. So, children in the vicinity have to be closely monitored.

    Usually when a kid gets out of your control, they get in the mud or eat dog shit. But there is no one responsible but the parents. These may be wonderful parents or they may be scum; unfortunately for them, we WILL find out. However, they should consider themselves fortunate that, in their moment of distraction, a gorilla got ahold of their child… and not a human. It could have been far worse.

    Had they darted the ape and then he killed the boy, they would have still euthanized him. This was the only solution.

  13. 13


    Lets say they did not kill the animal and it killed the child, the child was black so then they would be screaming if it was a white child they would have saved it. No way for the Zoo to win this round and make everyone happy. Witnesses could not snag the child scrambling through the bushes to the 15 foot drop into the enclosure. They yelled for him to come back but the kid had it in his head he was going to play with the gorilla https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfciC33t3M0 I blame Disney

  14. 15


    That was a beautiful animal.

    Over 50 Years ago, I was lucky enough to go to the Saint Louis Zoo on a special holiday. The only thing I still remember is watching the male gorilla play with a tractor trailer tire from an 18 wheeler. It was hanging from a high ceiling on a logging chain. He had the tire in both hands and extended his arms until the tire flattened like a worn out balloon. Those of you who have changed truck tires with the old tools will have an idea of the power it takes to stretch that tire. It was unbelievable. Harambe was much more handsome.

  15. 16

    Spurwing Plover

    Like the idiots who protested the shooting of Cicel the Lion and now the Gorilla their all probibly Pro Choice(Abortion)and weep over dead trees and are total vegans

  16. 18

    Spurwing Plover

    Just a few years ago in California(Where Else)some hippy freakos were weeping big fat tears over some trees Yeah Ignorant eco-wackos watching too many episodes of Captian Planet or hollywood crap like FAMILY TREE and AVATAR while snorting on funny flour

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