The death of Harambe was undoubtedly a tragedy, yet one that will hopefully highlight the need for change in order to address better safety measures in the future. It saddens me that people are calling Harambe’s handlers callous for deciding to euthanise him as this must have been a very difficult decision for them considering his species is not only endangered but he was a precious member of their ‘zoo family’. Yet, they made a wise call. Imagine the repercussions they would have faced had the gorilla fatally injured the child. While Harambe was not necessarily aggressive, he had the potential to kill, even unintentionally, possessing the strength of ten men. Some argue that his pose over the boy was protective but professionals say that his posture and tight lips were a clear sign of agitation. While no one can know what would have happened, the decision to euthanise the gorilla, while difficult, was probably the wisest decision that could have been made.
While people argue that Harambe could have been tranquillised instead of shot, it seems that they do not consider 1) the amount of time it would have taken for the tranquilliser to take affect (particularly since he had such a large body mass); 2) the gorilla’s agitation after being shot with the tranquilliser; and, 3) that Harambe could have fallen on the boy and either crushed him or drowned him in the moat. If neither tranquillising nor euthanising the gorilla, what other option did the zoo therefore have in order to save the boy?
Yet, this does not mean that Harambe’s death could not have been prevented. Many are quick to lay blame on the childs’ mother, suggesting her not noticing that her son had slipped away indicates irresponsibility and neglect. Rather than blame the mother, what if we acknowledge that children escape their parents and instead brainstorm ways to prevent their falling into danger? Many look down on parents who walk their children on leashes as if they are treating their child like a dog but, in reality, this is an incredibly humane idea for the future if it will prevent children from meandering into the exhibit of a male ape, from the perilous clutches of paedophiles, or from wandering in front of a speeding car. I cannot find blame in the mother in this particular circumstance- she is human and cannot 100% watch over her child- but if she had had something that could have prevented her child from escaping her then Harambe would still be alive.
Moreover, we must question: How did the child get into the exhibit if it was adequately enclosed? Some people will list the obstacles the child had to overcome in order to enter the enclosure as if listing these will defend the zoo from fault. (These obstacles are: a one meter fence, moat, and a twelve-foot drop.) But, in reality, the zoo should have built an enclosure in which neither an animal could escape nor could anyone enter. There are risks to animal enclosures: wandering children, idiots, vandals, and thieves. The obstacles the zoo had in place were clearly not enough if it was not ‘childproof’.
Let us learn from our mistakes in order not to repeat the past. R.I.P Harambe.