A gorilla is dead, but a child is alive.

By now we have all heard about the tragic incident at the Cincinnati Zoo, where a four-year old boy managed to slip past his parents, and into a gorilla enclosure, leading to an encounter with the gorilla that left the gorilla dead, and the boy injured.

There has been a lot of mud-slinging back and forth about the incident. Many people are mad because they feel the child should have been better supervised. Many are angry at the way zoo officials responded. Everybody has an opinion on how things could have been done.

But the facts are: Unless you were there, you can’t say for certain what you would have done. Unless you are an expert on captive gorillas, you can’t speak with any authority what was going through that gorilla’s mind. If you ARE an expert on captive gorillas, you are NOT the gorilla, so you can’t speak on his behalf.

I’m no expert on gorillas. In fact, I am not likely an expert on ANYTHING, but I do know some things, and I tend to operate on logic.

What I do know, is human children, and gorilla children are not built the same. Not even close! What is a gentle tap, tug, or push to a gorilla child, is to a human child, a brutal thrashing.

Human children are not built for clinging to strong mountain climbing parents that are likely ten times stronger than their human counter parts.

Perhaps the gorilla named Harambe, really was a gentle giant who was curious about the boy, or was trying to protect him, and had zero intention of causing him harm. But harm was being done to the boy.

The boy fell some fifteen feet into the enclosure. That may have caused injuries. Video shows the gorilla grabbing the boy, shoving the boy, and keeping the boy behind him.

The video also shows that this was not done in a gentle fashion. In fact, if people saw a parent tossing a child about like that in a parking lot for ANY reason, the local dispatcher would be flooded with 911 calls about somebody brutalizing a small child.

Zoo officials did not have the luxury of time to wait and see what would happen next. They did not dare risking the life of the child further, by trying to sedate the animal. They did what logically needed to be done. They shot and killed the gorilla to rescue a HUMAN being.

Do you recall the tragic ending of Travis the chimpanzee who nearly killed Charla Nash? Would that have been a better outcome for that four-year old boy?

Do you really think the zoo officials who decided to kill Harambe did so without considering other options? I don’t think anybody involved thought, “I hope someday we get the opportunity to shoot this gorilla and kill it!”

This gorilla was a valuable asset not only to the zoo, but to the species itself. Harambe was born in a zoo. He was always going to die in a zoo.  Some people think zoos suck. They think animals should remain in the wild, and that we are exploiting them by putting them on exhibit for us to gawk at.

Fair enough…Maybe zoos DO suck, and animals SHOULD be wild and free, and shouldn’t be in cages for us to gawk at. But lets not forget that there are less than 200 hundred thousand western-lowland gorillas in the wild.  Harambe was in Cincinnati because they had hoped he would be sire some offspring.

Without zoos some animals could be gone forever. Did you realize that the number of California condors in zoos, is almost the same as California condors found in the wild? At one point, there were less than twenty-five of them total. It was captive breeding that helped save them.

Although it seems like selfish reasoning, it is only because of zoos that people are able to see a small sample of the amazing animals that share the planet with us. I for one would have never seen a live rhinoceros were it not for The Bronx Zoo, or a panda were it not for the zoo in Washington D.C.

How many biologists have dedicated their lives to working tirelessly to save animals, and animal habitat?  How many of the do you suppose found their love for animals by a trip to the zoo?

Today’s zoos, for the most part work hard to give the animals they care for a healthy, happy life. Many zoo animals are born and raised in captivity. A lot of work has gone into stopping the capture of live wild animals for stocking zoo populations.

That a magnificent example of a western-lowland gorilla had to die to save the life of a human being is sad. But was there REALLY any other alternative?  Given the choice, I personally would wipe out every last gorilla on Earth to save the life of one human.  But I tend to think human lives matter more than the lives of animals.

Now that I have said that…here is a question for all of you who are outraged that a gorilla was killed in a zoo… Are you just as outraged by the two US Service members who were wounded by ISIS over Memorial Day weekend? Or do you tend to think animal lives matter more than the lives of humans?

Doug Alley

About Doug Alley

I grew up in Bath, Maine in an upper lower class family with 3 step sisters, a step brother, and a little sister. After high school I spent 3 years serving in the USAF at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage AK. I've competed in, and won, demolition derbies. I've competed in, and never won, stock car races. I am the 47-year-old father of an 11-year-old boy who is pretty sure he is smarter than I ever was. We live on a little less than an acre of land in a 1973 mobile home in Stetson with my wife Jen, some cats, a few chickens, and rabbits, and a couple of goats. I hunt, fish, camp out, dabble in photography, gardening, and I cook in variable degrees of near success.