I just finished reading the change.org petition entitled ‘Justice For Harambe’ authored by Shelia Hurt. As of this post, it has over 400,000 signatures. And now, the Cincinnati Police Department will (after electing not to at first) investigate the parents and the events leading up to the accident. Seems like a waste of time to me.
The loss of an endangered animal in such a violent way is tragic. I’m sure the decision to kill the gorilla was painful to the staff who cared for him, and from what I can tell, the many fans who are currently mourning his death. But one thing needs to made abundantly clear, due to the circumstances, this animal had to die. Arguments to the contrary suggests that this child’s life was worth the risk. He already spent ten minutes in the enclosure. How much longer would be appropriate? Or what amount of violence from the gorilla would be acceptable? Broken limbs? Bruises? Concussions? With a tranquilizer shot, there’s no way predict the silverback’s reaction. Is that a preferable situation to put a child in? Is that a chance you’d take with your own child?
Another thing that needs to be made abundantly clear: the mother is not negligent. What’s most distasteful about the petition is that it’s a vengeance scheme poorly disguised as concern. The author claims, ‘We the undersigned want the parents to be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life. We the undersigned feel the child’s safety is paramount in this situation.‘ If the undersigned are so concerned about the child’s safety, why aren’t they worried about how a preschooler managed to climb through a ‘secure’ enclosure? If it was as barricaded as it should have been, no amount of innocent curiosity could have penetrated it. Parental vigilance doesn’t stand a chance if spaces where children are reasonably expected to be, aren’t designed with certain provisions in place. Even the petition suggested that the only thing preventing the child from a MAJOR security breach was supervision (‘We the undersigned believe that the child would not have been able to enter the enclosure under proper parental supervision.’). I would hope that a zoo with such a high level of prestige and with over a million visitors annually would have higher standards for access to one of its marquee exhibits.
Call it far fetched, but this incident revealed a major issue at this zoo (and maybe others). Had this happened to a litigious family, perhaps this could have been spun to the tune of millions. Either way, the mother is not to blame. The lack of empathy towards her is galling. What parent (especially a mother of 4) can keep both eyes on all children at all times? And even if she did, I doubt she thought he could get in there. Criminalizing her behavior solves nothing. Suggesting this is evidence of neglect in the home is dumb. Hoping that the Cincinnati Police find something wrong, so that this already traumatized child has to suffer through the ordeal of a parent possibly being fined or worst, jailed…now that’s criminal.