A few weeks ago, the unthinkable happened at the Cincinnati Zoo. A mother was at the zoo with her young son when she turned her back to him, just for a moment. During that brief window of time, he crawled into the bushes and over a fence, falling into the Silverback gorilla enclosure below. Zookeepers sprang to action right away, coaxing out most of the female gorillas into another part of the enclosure. But one gorilla that did not budge was Harambe, a male Silverback who was startled, and went straight for the little boy. He didn’t attack, but his behavior quickly turned into something terrifying, and the zookeepers had a terrible choice to make. Now, one animal expert wanted to explain that choice — and offer some insight into what Harambe might have really been going through. Her words are eye-opening — and might make you think twice about zoos, safety, and the animals they are supposed to protect.After a child fell into his enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, the endangered Silverback gorilla Harambe had to be killed to save him.
That’s why a zookeeper and expert named Amanda O’Donoughue wanted to give her opinion on what really happened that day.
“In recent decades, zoos have begun to redesign enclosures, removing all obvious caging and attempting to create a seamless view of the animals for the visitor to enjoy… that is great until little children begin falling into exhibits.”
“Male gorillas do very elaborate displays when highly agitated, slamming and dragging things about. It was clear to me that he was reacting to screams from the crowd.”
If the zookeepers had chosen to use tranquilizers, it would have taken the drugs too long to kick in — possibly further agitating the animal or causing him to fall on the little boy.
Looking at this image, it’s difficult to imagine any other option that would keep this boy 100% safe, other than shooting Harambe. It’s sad, but the lesson here has to be about what can be done to prevent it from happening again.
“I can’t point fingers at anyone in this situation, but we need to really evaluate the safety of the animal enclosures from the visitor side. Not impeding that view is a tough on, but there should be no way that someone can find themselves inside an animal’s exhibit.”
Whether that means improving enclosures, or perhaps even just getting rid of zoos altogether, remains to be seen.
And O’Donoughue wants to make sure that no one gets the wrong idea about these beautiful, endangered creatures.
“I know one thing for sure, those keepers lost a beautiful, and I mean gorgeous silverback and friend. I feel their loss with them this week. As educators and conservators of endangered species, all we can do is shine a light on the beauty and majesty of these animals in hopes to spark a love and a need to keep them from vanishing from our planet. Child killers, they are not.”