Gorilla shot and killed at Cincinnati Zoo

Undated photo of Harambe. (Courtesy Cincinnati Zoo)
Undated photo of Harambe. (Courtesy Cincinnati Zoo)

Above is a picture of Harambe, the gorilla that was shot and killed Saturday by Cincinnati zoo employees when a 4-year-old child fell into his enclosure. The child suffered a concussion and some abrasions but is going to be just fine. The gorilla, unfortunately, will not be.

Harambe was a western lowland gorilla, the most numerous and widespread gorilla subspecies but nevertheless considered critically endangered by the World Wildlife Fund. There are an estimated 175,000 left in the wild. Born and raised in captivity, Harambe was one of 10 gorillas at the zoo and part of their breeding program.

It’s a tragedy that such a magnificent animal had to be put down in his prime because of human shortcomings. But when having to choose between a human life and an animal life, there can be no discussion.

If there is blame to be placed, it cannot be with the child’s mother. Children move quickly and unpredictably, and accidents happen. Nor can the zoo employees be blamed for shooting the animal instead of tranquilizing him. Tranquilizers take too long to work, and the gorilla, dragging the child around like a rag doll, could have killed the boy in an instant.

Blame, if any is to be assigned, is on the zoo for not having an absolutely childproof enclosure. They’ve already paid a very high price for that shortcoming.

The story should end here. But as litigious as our society has become, it’s hard to say for sure.



25 thoughts on “Gorilla shot and killed at Cincinnati Zoo

    1. Hey, Gary. Haven’t seen you in ages. Welcome back.

      Yeah, I’m having a tough time with this one. That gorilla looks so human, so intelligent and thoughtful …

    1. I’m as upset as anyone that such a gorgeous, innocent animal had to be shot because of some human shortcoming. His picture absolutely haunts me. But there’s an ugly, ugly, subset of people in this country that will seize on any excuse to protest, demonstrate, and give their emotions free rein. They check their brains — if they have any — at the door.

      1. The zoo needs to be very vigilant about keeping the environment secure. If they want people to come and learn about this beautiful animals they need to anticipate and prevent the possibility of this happening. I raised little boys and I know how fast they can move and how smart they are. I worry about this subset of people in this country that you speak of. 🙁

        1. I raised a son too. That’s why I’m not blaming the mother. No matter how diligent you are, things happen. As for the zoo, I’m assuming they thought they’d done everything to make that enclosure safe, but obviously it wasn’t enough to stop one little 4-year-old. They’re probably already working to improve the barriers around the enclosure. There were several lessons learned Saturday. It’s just a shame an innocent animal had to pay for human mistakes.

  1. As usual you make complete sense; I was all for shooting the mother, but thanks to you she is hereby reprieved.

    But it doesn’t alter the fact that I’m still blaming her mostly …………….:(

    1. I’m usually the first one to blame the parents, even after the child is grown. But I know from experience how quickly a 4-year-old boy can accomplish the unexpected or the seemingly impossible. Sometimes I think it’s pure dumb luck that any child survives to adulthood.

  2. So sad. This one was born at our zoo.
    Kids do move quick. Either a plexi glass/mesh screen behind the wire barricade or a wrist ribbon tied to child and mom – either one could have prevented the whole thing. Bad things happen when there’s multiple failures
    It sure has gotten ugly

    1. I read that the man who raised him in Texas burst into tears when he heard what had happened. Despite all I’ve said about how mistakes happen, I’m still almost in tears over this.

      1. We are not by the river bottom areas or the major rivers draining central TX as well as local area, so while it’s been raining off and on, what we get flows quickly into the bay/gulf. Did restock provisions today as the next 3 days are predicted to be rough weather/flooding with a low in Canada intersacting with a low coming across the top of Mexico…and wow, a possible tropical something out there with 20% chance of developing. Molly ran in the field with friends all morning – but if this rain doesn’t stop soon, we’re all going to be putting on far too many pounds!

  3. Keep the litigious lawyers out of this! The mother failed AND the Zoo failed. Fault and blame can be placed on either one equally. Where there is a will there is a way…and adults and children prove this to be true every day. I am responsible for my children PERIOD! When the child is old enough to walk to school or play outside and we allow them to do so is when they become most vulnerable because we are not there with “eyes on”.
    Again let’s not play the blame game here….because what about the very recent certification the Zoo received saying they were in compliance with Government regulations? I am just saying!

    1. Sadly, the lawyers have already lined up and are filing suit. Oddly enough they all seem to represent organizations that were not in any way involved in the incident. I’ve not heard yet that the one person who might have grounds for a suit — the child’s mother — has hired a lawyer. But I suspect it’s only a matter of time until she decides which ambulance chaser is the most persuasive.

      I think the zoo’s recent certification should go a long way in their defense, not to mention the many testimonials from zoo and animal experts around the country. But where there’s a dollar to be made or a cause to be promoted, you can bet somebody is going to sue somebody.

  4. I like your thoughtful position. Surely the mother, who many are blaming, is being punished severely through grief over her lost son. There is no indication that the zoo officials did not follow the rules that apply here. As the last few comments state, it is a shame that the lawyers who exploit such situations have swung into action.

    1. If I were that mother, my feelings of guilt would be overwhelming. (That boy’s safety is my responsibility and I let him fall into the hands of a gorilla!) It’s only through pure dumb luck and the actions of those zookeepers that she got her son back safely.

      Note: My sympathy will end when and if she files a lawsuit against the zoo. I’ve nothing but contempt for people who try to get rich off someone else just because an exploitable opportunity presents itself.

      1. Yes, if the mother sues, she loses any sympathy I feel for her. After all, the loss of her son, however, frightening, was temporary and by all accounts he will fully recover.

        1. You know some lawyer is probably already pounding on her door telling her she owes it to herself, her son, and everyone else to sue the zoo for negligence over that inadequate barrier. The zoo owes her! A lot! Hundreds of thousands! Why, it could pay for the education of that fine young son of hers! The son she almost lost due to the zoo’s ineptitude! Etc.

  5. I completely agree with your take on this issue. I am still dumbfounded myself at how this incident got the legs that it has gotten. I’m not in the least sense an animal advocate activist but I will say this regarding this incident and others like it. We humans can all share some part of the blame because these animals were never intended to be kept caged and penned up for our pleasure and benefit. I for one believe the killing of the gorilla was probably a blessing for the animal. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so presumptuous but if I were that gorilla, I would be happier now than I was prior to that little boy falling into my caged area.

    1. This particular gorilla was born and raised in captivity so his situation was not quite the same as a wild animal that had been captured and put in a zoo. He was to be a part of the zoo’s breeding program and such programs are necessarily conducted with captive animals. It won’t do anything to increase the shrinking number of gorillas in the wild, but it will at least ensure the species does not disappear completely from the face of the earth.

      I have mixed feelings about zoos. Many of them have come a long way since my childhood when animals were confined to small concrete and steel cages. The large, open, natural enivronments provided today are much more humane. It’s not ideal, but in addition to important breeding programs, zoos provide a lot of invaluable exposure to and education about the animals. If we’re to save the world’s endangered species, people must first learn to appreciate them. And that can start in our zoos.

... and that's my two cents