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.
Controversy hit the world of animal lovers recently, for the worst possible reason.
After a child fell into his enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, the endangered Silverback gorilla Harambe had to be killed to save him.
What's done is done, but some animal experts are trying to make sense of it all.
That’s why a zookeeper and expert named Amanda O’Donoughue wanted to give her opinion on what really happened that day.
Here's what she had to say.
“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.”
She claims that Harambe was putting on a display after the crowd started screaming — he was scared, but he didn't want to hurt anyone.
“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.”
She also explains why they didn't use tranquilizers.
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.
She explained that the zookeepers did what they had to do in this terrifying situation, but lessons can be learned for the future.
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.
O'Donoughue continued with her explanation.
“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.”
It's true: It's the zoo's responsibility to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.
Whether that means improving enclosures, or perhaps even just getting rid of zoos altogether, remains to be seen.
For now, animal and gorilla lovers simply want to honor Harambe's memory.
And O’Donoughue wants to make sure that no one gets the wrong idea about these beautiful, endangered creatures.
Her were her final words in honor of Harambe's memory.
“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.”
Next, watch how gentle this gorilla is with a caterpillar.