Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Harambe the Gorilla: Animal Rights vs. Human Wrongs

A gorilla. Image courtesy of Brocken Inaglory, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Joel Kontinen

A three-year old boy fell into a moat in the gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, USA. A huge male gorilla named Harambe caught him by the hand and was about to drag him away.

With people shouting, the gorilla was agitated and could easily have hurt the toddler. Harambe weighted around 200 kilos (450 pounds) and, as male gorillas tend to have six to eight times the strength of an adult man, the boy was in real danger.

The zoo staff reacted quickly and shot the gorilla. The boy was unharmed, but activists were not pleased with the death of the animal. 295,854 people have signed the petition Justice for Harambe, and some would have wanted to imprison the boy’s parents for not watching after him more closely.

Thane Maynard, the zoo director, said shooting the gorilla was the right decision.

The BBC describes what happened:

Video footage of Saturday's incident shows the gorilla dragging the child through the moat in its enclosure.

Mr Maynard described how Harambe ‘swished him around in the water by the ankle’ then carried him on to land.

The gorilla ‘wasn't trying to eat the child,’ he said, ‘but he was disorientated and wanted to get the child to stay there’.

The screams from the crowd were adding to Harambe's agitation, the zoo director said.

The BBC also interviewed US wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin, who said that tranquillising the animal could have taken many minutes and required multiple darts.

Harambe would most probably have killed the toddler, if the sharpshooter hadn’t finished him off first.

People brought flowers to a gorilla statue at the zoo. In a world where evolutionary thinking colours the thoughts of many people, it often seems that activists have more concern for animal rights than human wrongs.

For instance, many individuals became more agitated on hearing about the killing of a single lion with a name than of the slaughter of many nameless human babies.

And then there’s the perpetual struggle to get legal rights for chimpanzees and other apes.


BBC news. 2016. Harambe gorilla killing: Zoo defends shooting. (30 May).