Gorilla or child?

Once again the rapid read and respond time of the Internet prove how few individuals take the time to explore an issue before posting their opinion on the matter. This week it was the killing of a silver back gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo after a preschooler ignored his mother’s “No, he could not swim with the gorilla” and crossed two barriers to fall into the moat in the gorilla display arena. One of the now ever present videogaphers recorded several minutes of the animal picking up and then dragging the child through the water. Zookeepers, including the team trained to deal with dangerous animals, rushed to the scene. They shot the animal to protect the child.

Of course the video and the story quickly hit the wire and the world wide web. And then the “Monday morning quarterbacks” issued their objections and questions about everything.
Avid animal advocates, such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) denounced the death of the gorilla. “The gorilla enclosure should have had a secondary barrier … to prevent this type of incident.” PETA further urged families to stay away from displays of animals where humans gawk at them. Ironically while PETA protested the abrupt decision to put down the primate, yet the PETA organization euthanize up to 90 percent of the animals (cats, dogs, rabbits, etc.) placed in its care within 24 hours of the creatures entering their shelters, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and according to Huffington Post.

The zoo’s dangerous response team underscored the intensity of the situation and negated those who insisted that a tranquilizer should have been used. The team pointed out that a tranquilizer could have taken up to 10 minutes (too long) to be effective on an animal already agitated. The life of the child weighed in as more important than the gorilla. Management had to make a decision without the sideline benefit of replays and time to second guess. They reported that the animal appeared confused (possibly from the noise of the human spectators watching the scene). Something needed to be done quickly. The other gorillas responded to a call to quarters. The male did not.

“I would have taken much longer for the sedative to work and could have angered the gorilla,” the team explained.

Still the outrage at killing the animal continued. Piles of flowers and memorials accumulated near the statue of a gorilla outside the now closed exhibit.

Second guessing the event included harsh comments about the parental supervision of the child. “You killed him for protecting a child whose parents couldn’t contain their own children.”
Easy to say. And then there is reality. An observer of the family that day reported having seen and heard the mother caution the child against getting any closer. The observer saw the family of three children and two adults together and then suddenly one child was gone. He had slipped across the barriers that met the standards for safety set by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Some called the parents negligent and advocated for criminal charges. The woman who filmed the gorilla’s actions with the child negated the suggestion, “Children are adventurous, this stuff happens. I don’t think negligent is the right word.”

It is so easy to sit back and say, “They should have … I would never …” yet things happen to the most diligent of parents. The difference is that most of the time nothing untoward happens, as it did that day at the zoo.

Kim O’Connor, who videoed much of the incident adds that the video does not show the moment when the gorilla pulled the boy onto the cement portion of the exhibit. “It was too horrific to even hold the camera steady to shoot anything that bad.”

Anyone can have an opinion after the fact, with the briefest of news stories about the event.

Anyone with wisdom will take the time to find out more before passing along a harsh, off-the-cuff remark about the zoo, the parents or the animal.
As with any event, read, find out more information and ask questions. You have the time that the zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team did not. They had seconds, minutes to decide. They chose the life of a child over the life of an animal. To have done otherwise is unthinkable.