More Thoughts on the Shooting of Harambe, the Gorilla

Lounging in the silence of my thoughts, in my equally silent apartment, the familiar sound of summer nights resonates outside my bedroom window. Crickets, sharing evening gossip, chirrup amid the humid stillness. Almost becoming part of the conversation forming in my head, assessing how humanity has come to be where it is. The answers are endless but it seems that, for every answer, there is another question. I almost wish I could type multiple blogs at the same time to cover the angles.
One thing is for certain, this blog may cut against your personal grain if you are one to value the life of an animal over the life of a human, as in the situation between Harambe, the 17 years old gorilla and Isiah Dickerson, the 3 years old boy, who found themselves face to face in, what has become, one of those situations where I ask myself, Where did humanity go so wrong? I mean, so much finger-pointing going on between grown folk that we have forgotten the perspective of Isiah, the 3 years old boy. Has anyone asked themselves what may have been going on in his head at the time? And, for those that believe the waiting game should have been played, how would Harambe have reacted when Isiah decided he wants his parents or, maybe, became hungry? 400lbs+ of lean muscle mass moves incredibly fast and is incredibly powerful. I’m not sure Isiah would have lasted long at all should Harambe have had a shift in attitude. Regardless of how sad the decision was to make, the decision had to be made.

Parenting is a thing. My children were 3 once and, if you want to see how quick they can move, you only need to let their hand go in the clothing section of a Wal-Mart or Target. Try it. Let go of your toddler’s hand, turn your back, count to 3 and then look at the spot where you left them. If they’re still there, you have been blessed with what other parents would define as a Unicorn. I’m going to require you to hold on to that Unicorn and take it to the nearest cloning station, if you please, as a matter of importance to all parents everywhere!
Assuming there no unicorns involved, we need to key into the equation up to three more children, with Michelle Clegg, Isiah’s mum, being on her own at the time. There would also have been crowds of others milling around, on top of the fact that the gorilla enclosure was an open enclosure. I don’t care how good a parent you claim to be but only ignorance will stop you from understanding that the situation and environment described is tough, to say the very least. And that’s coming from me, willing to admit that I’ve had the ‘happy’ experience of frantically looking for my son in a SHOE SHOP! (God forbid his mum ever reads this!) Jokes aside, I agree Ms. Clegg fell short of her parental duty to keep watch over her son. However, I’m also going to agree that she was, at that time, a mother watching up to four children (Mr. Dickerson was not with the family at that point and the news sources I’ve seen don’t say how many children were present at the time) and she is human.
That is situation one.

Regardless of the impact situation one had on situation two, situation two still happened. We are still at the point where a gorilla and boy are in touching proximity. Having seen numerous videos from numerous sources, it’s undeniable Harambe was acting as a protector of Isiah. However, Harambe was dragging Isiah to various parts of the enclosure, risking harm to the boy, regardless of his intention. He also did not respond to the call of the zoo staff, which the female gorillas did. Added to this situation, Harambe was responding to the crowds above, who were calling and screaming. No one faults his actions but his actions were harming a child.
Let’s say that, as opposed to shooting Harambe, the staff decide it would be best to clear the crowds. We know how crowds can behave at times like this and the enclosure is large. What happens to Isiah if he is dragged further for the 15-20mins taken to move everybody? What happens to him if Harambe decides it would be safer on a rocky ledge or other raised surface? Do we merely look for someone to blame if Isiah had died from the waiting game?

When I first heard of the shooting of Harambe, one of my immediate thoughts was to ask why he wasn’t tranquilized but I get it now.
Harambe was already in a disoriented state of mind. How would he have responded if he were angered by being shot with darts? To give a little perspective, one scientist calculated that Usain Bolt (100m World Record Holder), at 200+lbs, exerts over 1000lbs of pressure, through the ground, in around 0.25 seconds with every footstrike. What can a 450lbs gorilla do, when made angry, to a 3 years old boy? Do we test the theory to keep members of the public happy? I say no. When the unknown quantity at play is the potential loss of human life, happiness of members of the public takes second place.

I struggle to fathom how humankind just cannot look in a mirror and see that we are a problem to ourselves. We are now at a point where, in a situation where there was a potential for loss of life, an animal should have been given the benefit of a doubt. Because someone’s parenting skills created the situation, loss of life is fair fallout. We’ll blame someone.
Let’s imagine that was a fair statement. Where does that leave us as a society? Indeed, where does it leave us as a species? Maybe we should put ourselves on the endangered species list.
If human folly is acceptable cause for a human to be left to die then what of those in car wrecks due to careless driving? Do we tell them to figure it out and complain about the mess they have caused?

Harambe’s death has been equated with that of lions shot in, I believe, Chile but the two situations are totally different. In Chile, captured lions were taunted towards primal instinct. In Cincinnati, a 3 year old wanted to play in water. The lions in Chile were killed because they had tasted human flesh, which could increase the risk of another situation the same. Harambe was shot to protect the life of a human. The act wasn’t selfish, it was necessary.

As necessary as his death was, it doesn’t take away from the sadness of the situation. Our application of blaming cause for effect seems to stop at the mother who stopped watching her son for a split second. Why don’t we take it back a bit further and take a stand against the zoos that ‘exhibit’ animals? Part of me thinks that it is a matter of convenience and a want to be seen to be doing something. It’s so much easier to post a social media rant about a woman not watching her son. Taking on a zoo? Now, that means time and effort. Writing letters and showing we really mean it.
And what of the hunters that, to an extent, breed the ‘necessity’ for captive animals? Of those claiming they really care and of those signing petitions, who is going to take that flight to Africa? Who is going to India? Who is going to tell a man, killing animals to feed his family that he needs to stop? Who is going to confront the men and women who REALLY hold the purse strings? Things get real here. This is where your passion can cost you your life. Now ask yourself how valuable life is worth.

Finally, justice.
Let’s say that Mr. Dickerson and Ms. Clegg are taken to court. They are found guilty and, on top of being fined hundreds of thousands of dollars, their children are taken from them. How has Harambe’s death been justified? We have a broken home, which comes with implications of its own, and two people, with a modest income now jobless and in prison for being unable to pay the zoo back for losses. Meanwhile, wild animals are still being hunted and killed for money.
The sad truth is that this tragedy is as sad as the society that created it. No winners. Then there is this pack mentality to target the weakest link. Funny. Apparently, we see this in wild animals…


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