The death of a gorilla

On May 27, 2016, Harambe, a male endangered Western lowlands #Gorilla, celebrated his 17th birthday. The next day, he was dead.

When three year old Isaiah Dickerson fell into Cincinnati #Zoo’s Gorilla World exhibit on Saturday May 28th, zoo officials made the decision to shoot Harambe to death. According to unedited video footage taken by a witness, Harambe went over to investigate when Isaiah first fell and showed no signs of aggression. At 25 to 29 seconds, he dragged the child in the water away from the original spot of the fall. For the next 30 seconds afterwards, he watched the child as well as the crowd gathered above that were yelling and screaming. At 1:00 minute into the video, he appeared to help the child up in a gentle manner. At 1:07 to 1:09 minutes, he dragged the child again to an area that was hidden away. From this moment on, not much has been released including whether the gorilla was aggressive toward the child. Ten minutes after Isaiah first fell into the gorilla exhibit, Harambe was dead.

Opinions vary among celebrities and social media

Zoo officials have never wavered from their decision to kill Harambe. They maintain their position that the animal’s behavior was too unpredictable and the child’s welfare outweighed Harambe’s. Even Jack Hanna, famed zoo keeper and director of Ohio’s Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, supported Cincinnati Zoo. In a television interview with CBS This Morning, Hanna said “I agree 1,000% with the Cincinnati Zoo’s official to take out the gorilla before he harmed the unnamed child who had gone under a railing, through wires and over a wall before falling 10-15 feet into a moat in the gorilla’s enclosure."

However, famed primatologist Jane Goodall’s opinion was not exactly supportive of the zoo’s decision. Instead she expressed sorrow and concern toward the other gorillas in her email to zoo director Thane Maynard. Goodall said that she “tried to see exactly what was happening — it looked as though the gorilla was putting an arm round the child — like the female who rescued and returned the child from the Chicago exhibit. Anyway, whatever, it is a devastating loss to the zoo, and to the gorillas. Are they allowed to see, and express grief, which seems to be so important?  I feel so sorry for you, having to try to defend something which you may well disapprove of."

Animal lovers flooded social media to show their anger at the zoo’s decision to kill Harambe, including using the website Change.org to start petitions asking for “Justice for Harambe” and that the Department of Child and Family Services investigate Michelle Gregg, Isaiah’s mother. The majority of bloggers found it hard to believe that a child could so easily navigate under a fence and through shrubs and over a wall without ever being noticed until it was too late. So just like Walter Palmer who killed Cecil, the famed African lion, Gregg became one of the most hated people on social media.

In order to show the flip side of the controversy, commentators published articles claiming that humans care more about the death of one gorilla then the deaths of thousands of unborn babies who fall victim to abortions. And bloggers who supported the child’s parents, tended to brush off this tragic event by saying accidents will happen.

People are now talking more than ever about conservation and animals in captivity

As a result of Harambe's untimely death, people have been openly talking about the conservation of gorillas and of wild animals held in captivity at zoos.  In part two of this article, these topics will be thoroughly examined.

 

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