Child comes first

Every life matters. There should be no debate about that. And there should be no doubt that a child’s life matters more than that of a gorilla. While sad, it seems to me the Cincinnati Zoo did what it had to do in order to prevent a child from being injured, or worse, killed. The irony is that the zoo had to take the life of one of its own prized animals simply because it didn’t do its job in protecting both the gorilla and the child. Go figure.

There isn’t a parent I know of who hasn’t experienced the momentary fear of losing sight of their child – the child who only seconds ago was standing right beside them. Kids are mischievous, quick, clever and can disappear in a flash. We all know that. Even so, until we fully understand what happened that day and how a child could ever end up in a gorilla enclosure at a big city zoo, it’s hard to blame any effort made to protect that child.

From where I sit, the zoo, although right in taking the action it did, is at fault for this whole mess. Imagine if the enclosure we’re writing about here was full of tigers or lions or alligators. Presumably, if anyone can find a way into the exhibit of a lowland gorilla, they can also find a way into other exhibits – exhibits that house animals with an instinct to kill rather than protect. If a child can run from his parents and end up in the space occupied by a gorilla then the zoo is no place for said child. It just isn’t. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a zookeeper to realize the deficiency of any zoo enclosure or exhibit. I mean, a zoo just doesn’t open one day and hope no animal maims or kills. Every zoo must go to great lengths to protect both its visitors and the animals for which those visitors pay to see. A 4-year-old kid, despite how bratty we may think he is, should never find a way to crawl, jump, fall, slide or stumble into any part of a zoo occupied by wild animals.

The Cincinnati Zoo created this disaster and the zoo now has to deal with it. Its gorilla didn’t have to die, nor did a family and onlookers have to experience the trauma of watching a gorilla try to protect, handle or hurt any child. For enabling all of that and more, the zoo is the culprit here.

Should you be among those across the world who are outraged about the death of Harambe, the gorilla, I’m right there with you. It’s sickening to see such a majestic animal, with the likely intention of protecting a child, be killed due to no fault of its own. As for the outrage directed at the parents, none of us know what happened and, as a result, should suppress such outrage until we do. It’s not only unfair to blame parents without facts, it’s also a misplacement of blame. The zoo enabled this to happen, it killed a gorilla as a result and it allowed a child to be traumatized because of its porous enclosure.

If the outrage is to continue, let it be at those running the Cincinnati Zoo. As for the gorilla, may its death be a cause for improvements at zoos across the country. As for the parents, may they have learned their lesson about the attention they give to their child. As for the child, may he be taught that Harambe was a loving animal with a desire to protect him, but that no wild animal is predictable and trustworthy. Most of all, may that little boy be able to visit a zoo again and take in the wondrous gift of amazing animals and the joy of seeing them.

As for the zoo, may it honor Harambe in the best way possible by getting its act together and by keeping all of its occupants safe, human and animal alike, safe and secure.


Scott Brooks serves as the publisher of the Waxahachie Daily Light. Contact Scott at 469-517-1440 or by email at Follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottBrooks1405