Gorilla vs. Three-Year-Old: Do You See What I Mean?

A three-year-old entered the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla enclosure and put himself in a life-threatening situation, causing the zoo employees to shoot the gorilla.

Olivia Doyle, Columnist

On Saturday, May 28, a three-year-old boy and his mother went to the Cincinnati Zoo. Upon visiting Gorilla World, the boy slipped under a rail and through some wires into the enclosure. His mother was not paying attention, and she didn’t notice that he had gone in until he fell 10 to 12 feet into the enclosure. The zoo employees saw him and tried to usher all the gorillas out of the cage, but only the females obeyed and the male (Harambe) went after the boy. He went and grabbed the boy, pulling him into a corner, and stood over him. He then grabbed him by the leg and pulled him through the moat. The zoo employees called this a “life-threatening situation” and shot the 400-pound gorilla with a rifle.

I agree with their decision to shoot the gorilla. They had no other options, and since these are trained professionals, they would know if they did. By the nature of gorillas, the boy could have been seriously hurt or even killed. Tranquilizing would not be a good option because it takes too long to kick in and it would just have made the gorilla more angry. Not only that, but if the boy had been killed there would have been a bigger outrage than there is now.

Although this particular type of gorilla (western lowland) is critically endangered and didn’t know better, the zoo had to do it. In a way, it was their fault. The kid should not have been able to get into the enclosure in the first place. The child did not know any better either. At the age of three, the stage of decision-making is still developing. I am sure that this boy did not even consider the dangers of going into the enclosure.

You can’t blame the parents either. There are several witnesses who said that the boy told his mother he wanted to play in the water. She replied “no, you’re not, no, you’re not.” She did tell him no, but the child still slipped away. It is easy to not realize that your child is not there; it happens all the time. And after all, the parents did not make the decision, the zoo did. The zoo thought it was a dire enough situation that they should kill Harambe. It may not have been a decision that made everyone happy, but it was one that saved a life, even if they had to sacrifice another.