31 May 2016

gorilla reaction

An image of the reaction to Harambe’s death featured on the BBC website.

There has been a lot of conversation around the news of a gorilla’s death in an American zoo over the Bank Holiday weekend. Should the endangered animal have been killed? Should the mother have kept a closer watch on her child?

Whatever your opinion, it is clear that this is a no-win situation.

A young, inquisitive boy falls into the enclosure with a huge silverback gorilla – it’s hard to imagine a positive outcome, isn’t it?

The media are reporting today that Harambe, the male silverback, was showing protective behaviour over the child, adding to the furore surrounding his death. However, what would have happened had the keeper tried to rescue the boy? How would Harambe react to having that novel new thing taken away?

A gorilla is a compassionate animal but no one can know, which is why it must have been such a difficult choice.

It is obviously an incredibly sad story. Just as sad is the online rhetoric surrounding the news?

People naturally look for someone or something to blame. Hounding the mother with online abuse and death threats isn’t the right way to react what was an accident – potentially an avoidable accident, but an accident nonetheless.

It’s also disheartening to hear of the call to end zoos. Invariably there are zoos that flout the rules and create abhorrent conditions for creatures that should be in the wild, not only display for human entertainment. But, what about the institutions that are keeping endangered species alive?

Humans have created an unsafe environment in the wild, where hundreds of species are close to extinction. Now, some zoos and zoological organisations, like our friends at Chester Zoo, are trying the remedy the damage done across the globe. Captivity might not be the ideal situation for wild animals, but surely it is better to protect whole species of animals from extinction while educating the population about the plight of millions of species throughout the world?

The internet has created a platform where everyone has a voice and it could be a truly world-changing platform if people stopped to think before posting. Whilst the situation with Harambe is very emotive, I can’t help but think rather than apportioning blame, using the attention to educate people about gorillas and the battle to protect the species in wild would be a more valuable option.
Did you know that they are still hunted and there are estimated to be only 880 mountain gorillas left in the wild?

It’s hard to imagine being in the position of the boy’s mother or of the zoo. It’s certainly not our place as observers to vilify anyone for making a no-win choice. Instead, pause and think about how you could find a positive way to respond.

My mum always said, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all” and that certainly applies here.

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