An unfortunate incident occurred today at the Cincinnati Zoo. A three-year-old little boy, intent on splashing in the water, slipped from his parents’ view, crawled under bushes, through wiring, and slid down 15 feet into the moat in the Gorilla Enclosure. Inside were several gorillas, the alpha Gorilla being a 450 pound Silverback named Harambe. Harambe immediately rushed to the boy, dragged him roughly through the moat to the other side, and stood over the boy. Being the technological age, the event was captured on cellphone video and photographed.
The entire event lasted about 10 minutes, with the eventual decision by the Zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team to shoot the gorilla dead in order to save the boy.
While onlookers interpreted the scene where Harambe stood over the boy as protective, and it could have been that the gorilla was initially attempting to protect the boy, there is a level of stress that animals raised in captivity can never escape. The gorilla was increasingly becoming agitated as the onlookers screamed and crowded the gorilla’s eye view. He could easily have drowned the boy or severely injured him at any point. Silverback gorillas are not particularly aggressive but they are unpredictable and the gorilla’s stress of being in captivity compounded with an unusual intruder, and screaming throngs, could have easily resulted in a death or injury at any moment. The boy was dragged through the water twice and up a steep hill once, he is lucky the gorilla didn’t dislocate the boy’s shoulder or leg.
Zookeepers initially attempted to give Harambe a species call to go back into the enclosure, but only the females responded. Harambe did not and his stress level increased at that point. He dragged the boy up the hill through vegetation and away from keepers and the screaming crowds. The decision was made to shoot the gorilla dead.
Here are a few headlines from the last hour. You can see they are heavily skewed toward the animal.
- Harambe’s rights were violated long before his tragic death
- Gorilla Experts Weigh In: Did Harambe Have To Die?
- Extended video of Harambe shows gorilla holding the boy’s hand
- #justice for Harambe
- After death of gorilla, petitioners seek ‘justice for Harambe’
- 78K and counting sign ‘Harambe’s Law’ in light of gorilla’s death
- We’d make the same decision, say zookeepers.
I have just a few thoughts on the incident.
Trust. When you take your children to the zoo, you are entering into a relationship of implicit trust. You’ve trusted that the Zookeepers have competently cared for the animals. You would not take your kids to see deranged, skeletal animals who have been abused. No, you trust that the animals are prime of their species and you and your children will learn something about them through your visit. You also trust that the Zoo has developed enclosures adequate to keep the animals in and most reasonable people out. (I say reasonable because someone with intent will always breach an enclosure.)
Therefore then, after ten minutes of assessing the situation and implementing less drastic strategies, the Zoo Response team made the decision to shoot the animal. We must trust their decision. When we walk around the zoo, we don’t spend our time second guessing the animal care, and we don’t second guess the enclosures, and we should not second guess the Zookeepers’ ability to assess and decide. They have a specially trained response team designed to handle situations like these. We are not animal behaviorists, gorilla specialists, or even zookeepers. We are ignorant. So we should trust the experts in this case.
Judgment. Animal rights activists immediately sided with the gorilla, charging the parents with negligence and blaming them for the death of the gorilla. This is also not our business. In 2016 (if you are reading this in future months and years) is a time when everyone is an expert and everyone judges and everyone is outraged over something or other. All the time. The boy had wanted to swim with the gorilla, and had told his mother he wanted to. His mother of course said absolutely not. It is sin in us that makes us defy authority. In a matter of seconds he slipped out and was down in the enclosure. Every parent, relative, teacher, caregiver knows how fast children can be, especially when they have their mind set on something. They run into the road, they wander into the woods, they fall down wells, they pet the doggie, they put the bean up their nose, they do these things and usually there is no harm done. They’re yanked back from the road, the dog turns out the be friendly, the well wasn’t deep, they’re found in the woods before dark, they sneeze out the bean. Usually these things happen in private and are swiftly resolved with no harm done. This time, it happened in public in front of judgmental throngs videotaping it and calling for charges to be made against the parents. This is a case where truly, the phrase ‘don’t judge’ can be said appropriately.
Human rights. People these days want justice for animals, zoos to be closed down, captivity to stop. Harambe was a particularly magnificent animal. Truly. Today’s secular world automatically denies the human his rights (like, to live safely in a womb) and puts a primary emphasis on the animal- even if it’s a jellyfish or cockroach, instead of a human. This was somebody’s son, a human being, and that takes precedence over a gorilla. Sorry. God said man has dominion over the earth and all the animals. (Genesis 2:15). The animals were actually given to us as food and to make beasts of burden and to use as we wish.
Of course, I’m not advocating heartless shepherding of God’s creatures. I’m saying that humans are made in the image of God. Animals are not. If it comes down to a choice between the animal and the human, we save the one who is made in God’s image. (Genesis 1:26-27). It is a strange world where onlookers make petitions and screech for justice for the gorilla, are the same kind of people screeching to maintain their “right” to kill babies in the womb. To the ignorant (Ps 73:22), animals deserve to live over a precious son of two parents.
The Zoo. I applaud the zoo for their decision. He had been nurtured and raised in captivity for 17 years. He had been fed and protected to the best of the keepers’ ability. They had a relationship with this animal. They had a program for this gorilla. They had intended to breed Harambe, and since he had just turned 17 years old he was about to come into his breeding time. The Zoo instantly set all that aside on behalf of the implicit contract I mentioned above. When we attend a zoo we trust that they have developed it in a way that protects us from harm, and I am sure they feel strongly about the value of human lives that enter there. While on their property, we are in their care. The Zoo is no doubt mourning the loss of a magnificent animal, an animal ‘friend’, and the now lost years put into the breeding program. They are no doubt grieving over the death of their animal and with him, their hopes to make an impact for endangered lowland gorillas.
The Bible. Genesis 1:26 says we have dominion over all animals. After the Flood, He reaffirmed our rule over the animal kingdom in Genesis 9:2, making one change. He put the fear and dread of man into animals, and into our hand they are thus delivered. It’s pretty clear. Harambe the Silverback Gorilla had to die.
1. The Zoo made the right decision. Not because I have inside knowledge, but because I trust the Zoo to be able to assess the situation and in their animal behavioral knowledge, make a correct decision.
2. Human life is more precious than animal life, because God made humans in His image.
3. Rushing to stupid judgment based on facts we don’t know is common these days. Christian, be prudent.
In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly. (Proverbs 13:16)
Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. (Proverbs 14:29)
The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps. (Proverbs 14:15)
Postscript: This is said with no snark and no sarcasm, but be it known that after the Rapture, one of the wrathful judgments God will send to the earth during the Tribulation will include killing a quarter of the earth’s population through four specific judgments- one of them being death by beasts. (Revelation 6:8). Let’s see where the ‘hashtag justice for Harambe’, PETA, and animal rights enthusiasts are when wild animals suddenly lose their dread and fear of humans and begin killing humans wholesale. They won’t be leaving roses at gorilla memorials then, I would surmise.