Gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo (Photograph: Justin via Flickr)
Gorilla Shot After Boy Falls Into Its Enclosure, Who Should We Blame?
The director of Cincinnati Zoo is insisting the decision to kill an endangered gorilla after a child entered its enclosure was the right choice – although there's almost half a million critics who aren't so sure.
Thane Maynard said the gorilla was agitated and disorientated by the commotion, and posed a serious threat to the boy's life, suggesting the 420lbs animal could crush a coconut with one hand.
Killing the primate was the only way to protect the child, Maynard said at a news conference, "It would of taken up to 10 minutes for a tranquilliser to set in" – which could have been too late.
But how did a four-year-old boy get into the enclosure in the first place?
Witnesses report hearing the young boy tell his mother that he wanted to get in the water. Although she did say no, the boy still managed to get into the moat of the enclosure.
Questions around culpability have now been raised. "I think this took time for this kid to find himself in that situation [and] ultimately it's the gorilla that's paid this price" says conservationist Jeff Corwin.
In an interview with Boston television station WFXT the Corwin also suggests the boy's parents should take some of the blame for what happened:
"Zoos aren't your babysitter"
Since the death of the Western Lowland gorilla, named Harambe, a number of petitions have emerged calling for informal and formal investigations into the mother's negligence.
Justice for Harambe states: "We encourage an investigation of the child's home environment in the interests of protecting the child and his siblings from further incidents."
"We want the parents to be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life."
In another petition, which has over 100,000 signatures, critics suggest implementing reforms in light of the tragic death and passing something called Harambe's Law.
This would impose legal consequences where endangered animals are harmed or killed as a result of the negligence of visitors.
If enacted the law will not only protect the animals but it will "hold individuals accountable for actions resulting in harm or death of an animal," the petition states.
The three publicised petitions have attracted almost half a million signatures.
People are desperate for someone to accept responsibility, and we can't really blame them. Harambe didn't enter captivity on his own accord and he didn't coerce the child into his enclosure.
Videos taken by zoo visitors even show the gorilla at times being protective of the boy.
Jerry Stones raised Harambe since birth and said he was "never aggressive and never mean" but would rather "tease the heck out of people and do things to irritate them, just like some kids."
So who is the blame: a gorilla in captivity startled by screaming; irresponsible parents and a mischievous kid; or the whole concept of zoos in general?
Captive animals are proving to be more problematic than zoo officials once thought – should we just release them?
By Matthew Kirby, published on 31/05/2016