Animal lovers in the virtual world of the internet have been abuzz this week furiously discussing Harambe the 17 year old endangered lowland gorilla that was shot and killed this week in the Cincinnati zoo when a little boy entered his enclosure. One thing they all have in common, is a sadness and sense of frustration at what seems like a senseless loss of a magnificent animal. Normal human nature at times like this is to try to place the blame. Some say it’s with the mother, saying she was negligent to not monitor her child and allow him to enter the animal’s enclosure, and she should face criminal charges in the death of the animal. Others blame zoo’s, and demand they all be shut down and we release animals from their prison’s in the first place. Those somewhere in the middle struggle with understand why the animal was not just tranquilized? We understand now that it would have taken too long to dart and tranquilize the gorilla, but isn’t there something else they could have done other than kill this precious animal?
As an animal professional, the first thing I would like to point out, is that of the hundreds of people weighing in with their passionate comments, very few if any have worked with animal’s in zoo’s or spent any time behind the scenes. Few of them have experience with the nature and behaviors of lowland gorillas. Harsh assumptions are made, emotionally charged petitions are started, however, how many of those people signing and speaking out are actually qualified in some way to carefully evaluate all sides of the situation, and then make an educated decision? Based on the comments I have seen, I would say very few.
People are often confused about why the animal was not tranquilized, instead of shot and killed. They villainize the dangerous animal control team (although they probably did not even know that existed before this week), and zoo officials for making this difficult decision. However they have no basis, background, knowledge, or expertise, to allow them the privilege of getting to weigh in on such a difficult situation.
In reality, it was the best time possible for such an episode to occur. We should be grateful to Cincinnati zoo officials for having a dangerous animal control team in the first place. We should be grateful they were prepared to make quick decision. We should be grateful they had just had a practice drill the week before. Image how much more tragic the situation might have been without competent professionals, who care so much for their job, the animals, and who treat their responsibilities with such profound respect, that they were prepared for addressing just such an emergency, in advance!
I can assure you people who work in zoo’s are not just sitting around waiting for the moment to shoot and kill the animals. They are often criticized, hard working animal lovers who are well trained, love what they do, and the animal’s they care for. They are working a thankless job, long hours, for often meager pay, just for the opportunity and privilege to live their dream, and work daily to carefully care for some of the most magnificent animal’s on the planet.
For the people who think we should shut down all zoo’s, I simply ask the very real questions, 1) where would all the animals in captivity now, go, and who would pay for it all, and 2) what then shall we do with all the animal’s in captivity who are not capable of caring for themselves in the wild, and who will pay for them? It is obvious there are no easy answers.
Instead of rising up against the zoo’s, how about we start petitions to raise money to fund research into fast acting tranquilizers? Because this could be the best, most realistic answer to this entire situation for the future.
Charging the child’s mother with criminally does nothing to prevent this fate for other animals. Closing down zoo’s is not realistic, or even best for society and animal’s in the long run. The answers usually lay in that middle ground. We have to sometimes look outside the box for answers. We should ask zoo officials, the most qualified people to comment on the situation, what would have helped them to have been able to avoid this tragedy. Perhaps the answer is a new medication, procedure, or equipment, so that animal’s can be quickly, safely, and instantly immobilized, so they don’t have to lose their lives, and zoo professional’s don’t have to lose living their dream, which will help save the future for all us animal’s together, on this small, fragile planet.
On that note, I am DrQ, here to help you, better understand the world of animal’s and people. Thank you for reading!