Like so many, I have read the stories and watched the videos of the 4-year old boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo.
I watched and wondered if the gorilla, named Harambe, was trying to protect the boy or hurt him as he was dragged through the water.
And like many, I was truly saddened that the zoo had to kill the gorilla.
Now the question seems to be who to blame?
The mother of the boy? The zoo?
Deidre Lykins, a witness who was there when it happened, wrote what she saw and heard in a Facebook post. She wrote that the mother was calling for her son. The mother said the boy had his hand in her pocket while she snapped a picture. but he let go and wandered off.
I don’t know if she’s a good mother or not. I do know that I’m incredibly lucky to have never been in such a situation myself.
When my twin sons were 4-years old, it was a constant battle to keep track of them. And I was a crazy, hovering, “hold-my-hands-at-every-moment” mom. But kids move fast.
I confess that when the twins were 2-years old, I used leashes. It was great, they couldn’t get away from me. But I got a lot of dirty looks from passersby and eventually put the leashes away. I wonder if the people so quick to judge could ever imagine themselves in such a situation or, is it possible, that all these judgmental comments come from perfect parents?
I read one comment by a father who said if he were in that situation, he would have jumped right over the fence and into the water going after his child.
The words rang true in my head. Me too, I thought. I’d do anything to keep my children safe. But what do you do with the other child in your arms or the third one hanging on your leg? Shove them at someone nearby and say “Here, hold these kids for me, I gotta go in after that one.”
What would the public say then?
And how many mothers at the zoo that day, went home and said a prayer of thanks, grateful that such a thing didn’t happen to them.
The next question is how much is the zoo responsible for what happened? Was the gorilla enclosure safe enough? I wonder how many children have visited that zoo and didn’t get into the enclosure? Was it only because good parents visited the zoo until now?
And what about the decision to kill the gorilla.
I don’t know the temperament of any gorillas, let alone Harambe.
Watching the video, I could see how easy it was to interpret the gorilla’s movements as protective of the child. I could also see how easily such an incredibly strong animal could crush that child.
In one of the zillions of stories reporting on the situation, a zookeeper said he’d seen Harambe crush a coconut with one hand. I can’t imagine how panicked he would be watching that gorilla with that small boy.
Those zookeepers must have been scared to death that was going to happen. They chose the boy over the gorilla.
Some said they should have erred on the side of the gorilla and only anesthetized him, rather than kill him. But how many of those folks sharing that thought knew anything about anesthetizing gorillas? I certainly don’t.
It’s a horrible, terrible situation but it’s made worse by the hateful, judgmental comments that appear on every story and on social media.
It’s so easy to judge. So easy to be certain such a tragedy would never happen to us. So simple to say we would know what to do in just such a situation.
But other than Harambe, everybody involved in this situation is human. And humans make mistakes.
I’m glad the boy is safe, I feel bad for the zookeepers who had to choose to euthanize an animal they cared so very much for and I am sure the zoo is carefully considering changes to make the area safer. I don’t know who is going to held accountable or if anybody should. I just can’t help thinking “there but for the grace of God go I.”