Gorilla decision made correctly

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The child in me loves zoos. The parent/grandparent in me loves taking children to the zoo to teach them about animals and show them the great, beautiful beasts they would otherwise never get to see in person.

The adult in me also knows there’s reasons to debate whether there should even be zoos that are for profit only and not rehabilitation.

But zoos are here, and judge me harshly, but my family and I visit the one in Memphis every year. That includes my grandchildren, who are 5 and under. It’s no easy task to control their enthusiasm. During our last visit, Alexendrea, who just turned 4, decided she wanted to go play with the lions and stepped up on a rock to try to climb through the brush.

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I was right there luckily and grabbed her arm and she got a stern talking to and explained the lions would eat her face for lunch. Graphic, yes, but also effective. That is, until we reached the crocodile and she asked if she could swim with him.

I didn’t give it a second thought until this past week when Harambe, the 17-year-old silverback gorilla, was shot and killed after a preschooler somehow managed to get into his enclosure.

What a horrible, sad situation. Who do I blame? Does it matter? What happened, happened, and while I could try to pass judgment on the child’s mother even though I wasn’t there, and the zoo for failing to create a structure that was toddler proof (anyone with toddlers knows that is quite a task as they are like mice and seem to be able to squeeze and crawl through just about any barrier if determined enough).

However, one opinion I have no qualms about sharing or passing judgment on, if you will, is the decision by the zoo to shoot Harambe.

They did the right thing. They had no choice at that point and heartbreaking as it is, it was the only option. A tranquilizer would have taken several minutes and probably would have aggravated him further, putting the child in even more danger.

The boy somehow managed to get under a rail, crawl through wires and fall 10 feet over a moat wall to get into the enclosure. Footage shot by a witness shows Harambe dragging the child through the water. It also shows him just watching the child out of curiosity.

We will never know what would have happened, but if it were my child, I wouldn’t have wanted to wait and find out.

I’ve read such horrible comments on social media, people passing judgment on the mother, blaming her as if she threw the child over herself. But the worst are the comments from those who believe the animal should have been spared, despite what could have happened to the little boy.

Harambe is a 450-pound gorilla. There was no option to wait and see what he might do. Even if he only meant to play with the boy, his brute strength could have killed the child.

The child.

A human being.

Someone’s son, someone’s grandson, someone’s brother.

There was no other option.

I grieve for Harambe. I feel for the mother, who apparently is the only woman on Earth who looked away for a moment or who has made a bad judgment call. Her mistake, her being human and imperfect, has come under inspection by the world and that can’t be easy.

Her son is alive, and Harambe paid an awful price for that and was killed for simply being what he is — a magnificent gorilla.

Maybe next year we’ll visit a museum instead.

RIP Harambe. You’re free now.

Alyssa Schnugg is city editor of The Oxford EAGLE. Contact her at alyssa.schnugg@oxfordeagle.com.