The backlash has been extremely vicious since zookeepers killed a gorilla named Harambe in order to protect a boy who fell into its enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. Last week’s accident had a number of parties up in arms on the internet. Part of the internet is upset that the zoo shot a endangered 17 year old Western lowland gorilla, and other people concerned that the zoo isn’t safe for animals or humans. And some are blaming the mother for not watching her child more closely. In other words, people are pointing fingers all over the place. I myself am pretty biased because I grew up in a city with an amazing zoo. (National Zoological Gardens of South Africa) It has changed pretty drastically from “here are animals in a cage” to “here are animals in recreations of their habitats and we do a lot of conservation.
But thinking of the layout of that specific zoo, I can’t imagine a kid getting somewhere they shouldn’t without help and a lot of effort. Seeing animals in person is just something special, no amount nature programs can replace that experience. If it weren’t for the zoo, I would ever know how big elephants really are, how penguins swim and do not fuck with the gorillas. And if you get rid of zoos you run the risk of people seeking out these animals in their natural environment, which not only endangers the people but would endangers the habits of the animals. Not to mention the educational value they hold for kids and grownups. Having said that as the animals are being treated well and their living space is continually expanded, I see no issues with zoos themselves. Not to mention they help with breeding programs for endangered animals.
Some of my fondest memories from childhood involve going to the zoo, and without them, no one would ever care about these animals and want to save or preserve them. And wanting to close down zoos because of singular incidents like this is extremely silly and short sighted. National Geographic points out, 42 animals have died during escapes or attacks in US zoos since 1990. During that time, 15 humans have been killed at zoos, and 100 have been injured. Of these injuries, only 15 incidents involved primates. The last time a gorilla was fatally shot in a US zoo was in 2004, when 13-year-old Jabari was killed after escaping from the Dallas Zoo. If I am doing my math right, that means an average of only 1 or 2 people and/or animals per year died in that 26 year span. Isn’t that actually really good odds?
If I remember correctly 12 people have died at Disney world in since 1990. Just World the one in Orlando America not Land or Euro or whatever other parks they have. That is about on par with Disney World, and no one wants to close them down, well I am sure someone does. But there isn’t a huge outcry about it. As a parent of a 12 year old myself I really do understand the “it could easily happen to you” mentality that is causing people to say that the mother is blameless, I really do. But the fact is that no matter how common it is, she lost track of her child in sight of an obvious potential danger for long enough so that she child managed to circumvent enough obstacles to get into a gorillas enclosure without anyone noticing including the zoo.
It doesn’t make her a bad person or parent who was purposefully negligent, but she is to blame as much as the zoo for what happened that day. And the unfortunate truth is, you can’t engineer against stupid. No matter how good you make the animal enclosures, stupid will always win out. Somehow the enclosure has kept out kids and grown people for 38 years and suddenly now people want to complain about it and call it a hazard? This might be an unpopular opinion, but that day a child was ignored by its parents after repeated calls by him that he is going to enter the enclosure who will probably receive no punishment for his actions. While a wild animal that has been imprisoned their entire life paid the ultimate price for someone else’s negligence. Personal responsibility is a lost form of human behavior it seems…