We all know what the story is. A 17 year old male western lowland gorilla named Harambe was shot and killed to protect a 4 year old boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo over the weekend. The media uproar was immediate. The parents were negligent, the kid was a brat and the gorilla didn’t deserve to die. A petition was started to have Child Protective Services investigate the family, the police have now opened an investigation and the government is investigating the zoo itself.
Certainly the family has it’s supporters. I’ve seen plenty of “Mommy blogs” saying how easy it is to turn your back for a minute and have an accident happen with your kids, the mom deserves our support, etc. I get that. I’ve ended up in the ER on more than one occasion with my kids as well. But this isn’t a fall off a bike or a finger shut in a door by a sibling. This could have easily been fatal for the child.
Here’s where I stand. Do accidents happen? Of course. Have I ever taken my kids to a busy zoo? Yep. In Virginia and New Jersey. Crowded, hot, weekend visits where we got jostled, pushed, overheated and had the occasional meltdown. Did I take my eyes off either one of my kids for two seconds? Nope. Bathrooms? All 3 of us in a stall. Walking? Hands held. Taking pictures? You bet. Dozens. Taken a safe distance from enclosures and not a single selfie. In fact, my phone rarely left my bag. Now am I perfect? Nope..far from it. I’m hot tempered, opinionated, cuss like a sailor and have an iced coffee addiction. But I can also guarantee that my eyes never left my kids. If my eyes weren’t on them, my hands were, and that includes an autistic child who was a runner.
There’s also the zoo to consider. There has to be some accountability there as well. Obviously they want to keep patrons and their animals safe, but they make money by showing off their animals. And people won’t pay to come if they can’t see the animals, so in lieu of iron bars and Plexiglas windows, (which suck for the animals), there are “open” exhibits….better for the animals, not so good for the unsupervised, determined preschooler, or the gorillas who get stuck with them and end up with a bullet in the head.
Some supporters are calling the zoo mom a hero. For what? For doing whatever you were doing while your kid climbed over a 3 foot steel wall, thru heavy shrubbery and fell down a 15 foot embankment into a moat? WITH GORILLAS IN IT? For getting a gorilla who was by all accounts a gentle animal killed? Sorry, not buying that for a minute. You want to call her a hero? Let me see her jump down after the kid and fend off the 400 lb gorilla for the 10 minutes it took for the zoo staff to decide to kill him. Then she’d be a hero.