Recently, a 4-year-old boy fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. About ten minutes later, Harambe, a 17-year-old western lowland gorilla who interacted with the boy in the enclosure was brutally shot with a rifle and killed. After Harambe’s senseless killing, the child was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital with “non-life threatening injuries” according to CNN. This presents a striking problem.
Due in part to the irresponsibility of the child’s mother who did not adequately supervise her child, a critically endangered gorilla lost its life. According to the Cincinnati Zoo, western lowland gorillas number less than 175,000 in the wild and are in desperate need of protection. Each gorilla is immensely important to the survival of its species and it is a great tragedy when one is lost, particularly in such an un-just way as Harambe’s death.
Many experts on gorilla behavior said after the incident that Harambe was likely trying to protect the boy rather than harm him. The loud screams from the boy’s mother and other on-looking zoo visitors put Harambe on edge. One primatologist with PETA said in a statement, “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.” This uncertainty about the intention of Harambe’s actions calls into question his death. Shooting Harambe with a tranquilizer dart could have saved both the gorilla and the boy’s life.
This tragedy is also an example that wild and dangerous animals should not be kept in the captivity of zoos. Gorillas and other large animals are better suited to a life in their natural habitats. Captivity can cause changes in an animal’s behavior and sometimes result in a fatal outcome. In many instances aggressive behavior by gorillas in zoos is a reaction to teasing and noises by humans above the enclosure or on the other side of the glass.
We, along with thousands of others, mourn for the death of such a powerful and rare creature. Due to human error—whether it be the mother or the inability of the Cincinnati Zoo to affectively enclose their animals—our world has lost yet another western lowland gorilla. #JusticeforHarambe
To help save western lowland gorillas from extinction visit here to adopt a gorilla through the World Wildlife Fund. You can also visit here to support the Wildlife Conservation Society which partners with national governments and indigenous groups to save western lowland gorillas.