The reason Zoo Miami’s prized razorback gorilla Harambe died in some ways mirrors what did in the fictional King Kong: Forced interaction with humans led to his destruction.
Three days after a 4-year-old boy fell into Harambe’s enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, Harambe’s death at the hands of zoo officials as he sat with the boy continues to tug at the national psyche. At the heart of the moral dilemma is this question:
Was it necessary to kill the 17-year-old rare and endangered gorilla instead of tranquilizing him with darts?
The answer is an emphatic Yes, it was. The decision by zoo officials to shoot the gorilla must have been hard, but did not take too long reach. It couldn’t. A human being’s life was in peril, more valuable than that of even a beautiful being like Harambe. Many wildlife experts say that a dart would have injected even more uncertainty into an already terrifying situation, plus the tranquilizer’s effect would have taken too long.
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Those who would second guess, or hesitate on behalf of the gorilla, are wrong.
The other question is whether the boy’s parents should be charged with a crime for their moment of “neglect.” The answer is a resolute No. This was an accident.
Still, animal activists are outraged; they want someone to be punished for the death of the 450-pound gorilla. The incident reflects hot-button issues we already deal with across the country: the treatment of animals, parental responsibility and capital punishment.
How could parents have lost track of this child and allowed it to fall into an habitat enclosure of wild beasts? The truth is, parents lose track of their children every day — at the park, at the mall, even in their own homes. Most of the time, the child is located, and life goes on.
That’s not how it happened this time. But instead of falling into the pool or running into traffic — sadly, considered “routine” accidents — the child at the zoo ended up in Harambe’s enclosure. Still, many will forever think the boy’s parents were neglectful, which will be their cross to bear.
The final player in this horrifying drama is the child. One bystander interviewed on television said she ran to grab the boy to keep him from sneaking through the exhibit and dropping 15 feet to the gorilla’s moat below. She described his determination, probably fueled with excitement to play with and touch a gorilla. It turned him into a self-determined little missile.
The child’s exuberance ultimately cost Harambe his life, which is a shame. However, who can make a persuasive case that the little boy should have been the one who didn’t survive?