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 .
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 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.
A former fetus, the “wordsmith from nantucket” was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1968. Adopted at birth, wordsmith grew up a military brat. He achieved his B.A. in English from the University of California, Los Angeles (graduating in the top 97% of his class), where he also competed rings for the UCLA mens gymnastics team. The events of 9/11 woke him from his political slumber and malaise. Currently a personal trainer and gymnastics coach.
The wordsmith has never been to Nantucket.