Harambe, an endangered western lowland silverback gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo, was shot and killed Saturday by the zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team after a young boy managed to enter the 450-pound animal’s enclosure.
The incident brought out people across social media — some expressing sympathy for Harambe, some stating they were happy the child is OK, and of course, those who clamored for:
1. All zoos to be shut down worldwide, forever;
2. Death or other harm to the parent(s) of the child;
3. Criminal charges against those involved in putting down Harambe.
Zoo personnel, who know a lot more than you or me, did the prudent thing by taking Harambe’s life to save the child. Harambe had already treated the child roughly. Yes, perhaps the gorilla was going to protect the child, but given how he had already violently dragged the child and possibly even tossed him on his back, the zoo could take no chances.
Had they not put down Harambe and the child suffered serious injuries or even death, along with the tragedy of losing a child the parents would “own” the zoo through a lawsuit, plus zoo personnel might be facing prison.
In a situation like this, extremists come out of the woodwork. People say things on social media they wouldn’t dream of saying face-to-face. Those who place blame after seeing a few seconds of video, or think they know more than people who have dedicated their lives to caring for animals, should just chill out and at least wait a few days before hitting “send.”
As Stephen Hawking said, “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”
And closing zoos isn’t the answer. Zoos not only educate people about wildlife, they help preserve animals — and certainly treat them much better than humans as a whole treat animals.
Every day thousands of dogs and cats are mistreated and/or abused. Wildlife crime is big business, with tens of thousands of elephants, tigers, and more species poached for the greed of humans.
Just this week, 40 dead tiger cubs were discovered in a freezer in Thailand, possibly in preparation to sell them at a ridiculous profit to illegal wildlife traffickers who might then sell them at a ridiculous profit to the Chinese to use the body parts in medicines or aphrodisiacs.
Zoos do a lot more good than harm. They’re just not perfect.
And neither are we.