The zoo. A place where one can go to see exotic and endangered species from all around the globe. Depending on your personal viewpoint, a zoo is either a place of safe haven and observance, or a prison for animals who have done nothing wrong. I, myself, see them as a bit of both.
Yes, they allow us a view on creatures great and small from all corners of the world. And the intent behind preserving a species that is endangered is noble. BUT, whether captured and penned, or bred in the facility, these animals are prisoners of the species that tends to ultimately ruin everything it touches.
Yes, I am down running we egomaniacal humans. We like to place ourselves far above other creatures simply because we cannot understand them. Because we drive cars, run marathons, own things, build things, destroy things to build newer things. And in bending other creatures to our will - we conveniently forget they are sentient beings. They feel, they think, they reason. They run, jump, hop, swim - just like us. Many do build things, own things. Just like us. They experience loss, grief, confusion, rage - just like us.
But because we can catch them, we feel we can do with them what we will. Cage them in concrete based "habitats", or make them jump and splash viewers, or swim with an endless chain of tourists in the Bahamas - with one goal: $$$$
Ye mighty dollar.
No matter how good intentioned is a zoological facility - the bottom line is the bottom line.
Now, all that being said, have I been to Sea World? Of course I have. Not for years and years, but yes, I once fell under the spell of watching those magnificent whales performing tricks. Have I been swimming with dolphins? Yes. Regrettably, I admit I have. And I will never do it again. The conditions are awful, the dolphins - such amazing, intelligent creatures - forced to pull stranger after stranger through the water for endless hours a day. I would not fault a dolphin who finally had his fill, going in for that photo op "kiss" and instead head butting the shit out of some beer gut from Boise. And yes, I have been to many zoos over the years.
As a parent with young children, the zoo represents, typically, a reasonably priced day out. The kids love to see the animals, and they get really worn out - the goal of any parent of young children, 24/7/365.
But in the run up to that worn out phase, small children have excessive energy and they do not like lingering, waiting, holding on. They like running, climbing, whining, chasing, DOING.
Which brings us to this past weekend's tragedy at the Cincinnati Zoo.
A holiday weekend, a crowded facility - families everywhere, children and ruckus aplenty. The kind of crowds that make any parent continually count their children. As Ron Burgundy would say, "You've got to keep your head on a swivel." Not just because someone might grab your child and take off, but because children are fast, cagey, curious little creatures who can/will wander off.
Enter the now infamous four year old who, according to witnesses, repeatedly told his mother he wanted to get into the water where the gorillas were - the moat surrounding their enclosure. Witnesses report her repeatedly telling him, "No, no you're not."
Well, guess again, Mom. While you were doing whatever it was you were doing that did not include watching your child, he fell into the gorilla habitat. (Witness after witness has come forward to state that Mom was face down in her phone, not paying ANY attention to the CHILDREN.)
OK, wait - back up - because this is where the comment sections begin to fill with apologists for the mother - defending her and reviling the zoo's obvious lack of security.
The gorilla habitat sits roughly 15 feet below the viewing area. There are rails, fences, bushes, and wires (electric fence above moat that he is seriously lucky he did no engage on his way down) in place to keep little adventurers out. So to "fall in" is a misnomer. Yes, that was the end result, but the child first had to be unsupervised for a decent period of time, and climb, push, crawl, and finagle his way to where he lost his balance and tumbled to the moat area below.
Apologists go on to cite the zoo's irresponsibility and laud the mother as some saint because she was "tending to another child" when it happened.
Awwww, really? "Tending to another child"? Tough bananas, people. That 4 year old is one of her children and definitely her responsibility. We are not talking being in Walmart and him disappearing behind a clothing rack in the blink of an eye. This child was left unsupervised. He could have been abducted. He could have completely wandered off to a different part of the zoo. Or he could have squeezed his way, around, under, through, and into the gorilla exhibit.
The little Indiana Jones went for the Holy Grail. The gorillas.
Of course, upon falling in, the crowd went wild, screaming, hollering, and of course filming.
Scary? Of course it is. There is a 4 year old child with a 400 pound silver back gorilla.
Terrifying? Of course it is. This is a wild animal. A powerful, wild animal. Yet in watching the video, one thing is pretty apparent - this gorilla was not raging at this child. If anything it appears curious, and bit protective.
Yes, I am quite certain the child was in shock, both from the fall and the impressive, intimidating force of a silver back dragging you like a ragdoll. But be clear - this child was not torn apart, bitten, or broken by this creature. In fact, this child's injuries were from the fall and he is already back at home and doing fine.
So, why was the gorilla killed? Why not tranquilized?
Well, internet-commenters-who-cannot-be-bothered-to-actually-read-a-full-news-article, tranquilizers do not hit and immediately render a beast unconscious. In point of fact, getting darted can wildly aggravate an animal of this size before the chemicals get traveling through its bloodstream. And in that time, a truly agitated gorilla could take it out on his new toy.
So, the response team at the zoo made the decision to kill the animal to save the child.
And yea, tho didist ye internet erupteth.
Yes, this is incredibly tragic - for the gorilla. He did nothing wrong. In fact, one could argue that he did some things pretty damned right given the circumstances. The comments I have read further reinforce the fact that we, as a species, are horrible. The lack of concern for the life that was taken "because it's just an animal" is a further nod to our ego, our arrogance, our certitude that we matter most.
But flinging your poo at the zoo is the wrong target. (Their barricades were in place, unbreached, for almost 40 years, they made the sacrifice of the gorilla.) And defending this parent as being completely innocent is pathetic. HER negligence allowed HER child to not only wander off, but wrangle his way through barrierS and into the habitat. HER lack of supervision of HER small child resulted in a magnificent animal being murdered. (Again, plenty of witnesses are coming forward stating she was not paying attention to anything but her cell phone.)
That is where the blame goes, that is where the fault lies.
Again, I get it - small children are like having your own little cadre of monkeys. I have lived it. But I can also tell you, I traveled alone with three children under the age of 6. I shopped alone with three small, inquisitive, sometimes bored children. I took them to the zoo, alone. And at no point did I lose sight of any of them. If anything, I was hyper-vigilant. Almost paranoid. Constant head on a swivel. Little hands in mine, and little ass strapped in a stroller. When Culley was 15 months old and intent on walking everywhere, we traveled to Boston. I was 7 months pregnant. So I bought a child leash. It connected her from my wrist to her wrist - she had enough freedom to toddle, and I had a child I could not lose.
A child leash - not a dog leash strapped around her neck. Somehow that concept is lost on many a commenter who castigate those of us who "treat our children like animals." Sorry, childless, inexperienced Internet Judge Judy - you lose. Keeping a small child safe, secure, supervised is the name of the game.
I think what has infuriated me the most in reading so many comment threads are the people encouraging this mother to sue the zoo. That it is somehow their fault she did not watch her child. Sorry, but this lady should be on the hook for the zoo having to put down a gorilla to save her little Mowgli.
Am I being judgy? You are damned right, I am. This is no different than parents who forget a child in the backseat, cook them to death, and then expect nothing but sympathy. Where is your %^&**^$ head?
WATCH. YOUR. CHILDREN.
AT. ALL. TIMES.
It is that simple. And if you cannot or will not, then stay home. You are the threat - to your children, the public, and depending on where you take them - you are the one further endangering a species.
RIP Harambe. You deserved better.