On Saturday at the Cincinnati Zoo, an absolutely horrifying incident occurred when a four-year-old child fell into a silver back gorilla’s enclosure while the boy’s family and visitors could only watch in horror. Quick action was taken by zoo officials, who made the tough call to fatally shoot the 17-year-old gorilla, Harambe. During some of the shocking video footage the boy’s mother can be heard shouting words of encouragement to the boy, trying to keep him calm. “Mommy loves you,” she called. The internet hasn’t exactly taken well to this family, though. In fact, they became quite hostile at how a parent could let a boy into such a situation. If you browse through Twitter’s #JusticeForHarambe hashtag you’ll see some of that.
Outrage is expected when an endangered gorilla had to die due to its human visitors not being entirely vigilant, but parenting is difficult, especially with kids that age in big crowds like a Saturday on a holiday weekend at a popular zoo. Kids can get into some trouble in the blink of an eye even with the most attentive, intelligent parents. Kids probably shouldn’t be climbing up railings at zoos, especially when most zoos have signage everywhere about keeping off of the railings, not banging on the glass and so forth.
To just immediately blame poor parenting seems like the sort of conclusion that an internet mob could come to in a hurry without much experience or understanding of a situation. But the woman who shot the now-famous video of the scene has her own explanation of the scene and it seems like this kid had to go to great lengths to get inside of that enclosure, CNN reports.
“Unfortunately, it was a bad situation where a 4-year-old didn’t have the attention of his mother for seconds,” she said. “I don’t think it was as easy as standing up and falling in. He actually had to climb under something, through some bushes and then into the moat.”
Being a parent is tough work and no parent should have to watch their child get batted around by a 450-pound gorilla like that, fearing for his life. However, it’s seriously unfortunate that Harambe had to lose his life due to such a situation. Sadly, there is nothing that we can do to prevent that child from falling into Harambe’s enclosure or to stop the bullet that ultimately ended his life, but what we all can take away from this situation is maybe a bit more respect and understanding for these animals and the zoos that house them.