Mon 30 May, 2016 10:24 am
FRANS DE WAAL - PUBLIC PAGE·MONDAY, MAY 30, 2016
I find it very hard to decide what the Cincinnati Zoo should have done in the case of the human toddler and Harambe, the silverback male gorilla. Seeing more of the videos, I got the impression that Harambe was mostly protective. He showed a combination of protection and confusion. He stood over the child, held him up, moved/dragged him through the water (at least once very roughly), stood over him again. Much of his reaction may have been triggered by public noise and yelling.
There was no moment of acute aggression, as also admitted by the zoo director. If the gorilla had wanted to kill the child, one bang of his fist would have done it. People have no idea of their superhuman strength. Yet, he didn’t perform any killing move.
I should also clarify, since people on Facebook have said that gorillas are dangerous predators, that this is entirely wrong. A gorilla doesn’t look at a human child as something edible. The species is not interested in catching moving objects, the way cats are. Lions or tigers are predators, but gorillas are peaceful vegetarians. They prefer a juicy fruit over a piece of meat any time of the day. The one thing that reliably makes a gorilla male mad is another male who enters his territory or gets too close to his females and young. Haramba surely knew that he was not dealing with competition, hence had no reason to attack.
There are several previous cases of toddlers falling into gorilla enclosures, one at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago and another at Jersey Zoo (UK). In both cases, the children survived the attention of the apes, in one case even receiving assistance from them. At Rotterdam Zoo, a gorilla jumped the moat to get close to a woman who often visited, and also here the incident ended without a gorilla death.
So, why was Harambe shot? First of all, the zoo director did not have the benefit of the video by now seen by everyone on the internet. A decision like this needs to be taken in a matter of minutes: there is no time to hear different opinions or look at video evidence. Second, all alternatives had big IF’s attached to them. Caretakers could have distracted Harambe and get him to move away from the child (which I understood was tried to no avail). They could have tried to lure him away with food or even have asked him to exchange the child for food (a process that apes understand very well). Another option might have been to tranquilize Harambe. But a tranquilizer dart sometimes upsets the target, which would have produced exactly the wrong reaction.
I honestly don’t know what I would have decided under the circumstances – it would have depended on the precise information that would have reached me -- but can’t help but wonder what would have happened had the public been moved out of the way, and also the veterinary and security staff would have been held back, so that only animal care staff familiar to Harambe would have been left around. Under such circumstances, calm might have returned and, who knows, the child might have been left unharmed.
It is a horrible dilemma. I am sure the zoo staff is devastated (even though activists often depict zoos as prisons, they are full of people who deeply care about and greatly respect animals), and I myself am devastated that such a beautiful primate was killed. It is a great loss for the species, but we also mourn the individual life of a primate who had done nothing wrong.
At least, we can all agree that people should watch their children! A special petition is going around calling for the boy's parents to "be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life".
A tough call. You have just a few minutes to decide and you one hundred percent have to get the toddler out alive.
Exactly. the life of the child is paramount. As for "holding the parents accountable", parents make small mistakes all the time and this was a mistake, a parent turning away for a second. That they had to watch their child go through this and then endure the aftermath is plenty enough. A zoo is a place for children. How was a child able to enter the enclosure in the first place?
I have mostly heard about people ranting about the parent...you should not take your eyes off your young child for a second. At first I thought the same thing ... how neglectful.. but upon second thought I realized this is not realistic or possible.
I also remembered an incident when my toddler disappeared. I was in a store with my husband. Our toddler was right next to us. We looked away for that second or two and she was gone. We panicked...fortunately she climbed underneath a display that had a table cloth over it hiding her under the table. What posses a toddler to do this odd things...she never did anything like that.
So I can see something like that happening...now if the parents were ll owing their child to climb something or hang where they could lose their balance....i've seen that too..,then obviously they are at fault.
My overall guess is it was a tragic accident ...toddlers don't know better and they get something in their mind to do something and they just do it. For the safety of the child although I don't like the outcome, the poor gorilla had to be shot..it was just too risky otherwise. He is a wild animal and although he didn't react aggressively . ..all it would take would be a split second of turning. And even if not aggressive he could have hurt the child easily without meaning to.
I'm a non expert, of course. Did they have to kill him? No tranquilizers?
I take all this as sloppy stuff, and mourn him dearly.
The problem with tranquilizers is it doesn't impair an animal right away. It takes time to take affect...it can make them upset when they get causing them to hurt the child.
ah, I didn't know that.
Mean time, it is my perception that anyone who knew the animal, one way or another, would have known the animal was not predatory at the time.
From someone who knows.
Short version. The zoo staff did exactly the right thing.
The gorilla was trying to protect that child. NOBODY could have approached that boy with autism-causing vaccines, Common Core materials, queer indoctrination of any sort or any other kind of hurtful thing. For fifteen glorious minutes of his life, that boy was totally safe.
Surely, you're not serious
You are absolutely right Ganeemead. We should put all children into Gorilla enclosures.
I read the article about an hour ago, it was helpful for my understanding.