Humans or Harambe

chicagotj.org harambe


Have you seen the video about the Harambe incident yet?? I know you have. Have you seen the entire thing?

Was the boy being dragged or protected? Were Harambe and Isaiah Dickerson holding hands, or was this an animal acting on innate instincts? Do we listen to the choir of lay-voices on social media, wailing bloody outrage over what they call an aggravated murder? Or perhaps we should heed the dozens of educated, experienced professionals who have remained unwavering in their declaration that there was no other option but to pull the trigger? Seems complicated, eh? It isn’t. More on that in a moment.

Here’s an unlikely scenario: Harambe is brought in for questioning. The lead investigator fans the pile of paperwork in front of the silverback. The record is deep…this gorilla has had some adventures. “Banana? Carrot?”, the detective asks. Harambe is quiet. “Alright then, let’s hear it then. I’ve seen the video. I think it’s obvious you were trying to protect the child. The injuries he sustained, while needing hospitalization, weren’t life threatening. I think we can get this down to simple battery. Why don’t you speak into the microphone here and explain your side of things…you know…tell us why you assaulted the boy”.

“Yes!” I can hear the resounding on Twitter and Facebook say, “An unlikely scenario indeed because instead of pursuing peaceful life preservative measures, this graceful, endangered animal was murdered in cold blood and for no reason at all!”

Actually, it’s unlikely because it was a gorilla. An animal driven by instinct. Who are these voices on social media? Are they animal behaviorists? Primatologists? Jane Goodall even? What do any of them know about primate behavior?  It is forever beyond our capability to ascertain exactly what the gorilla was thinking or intending, whether he lived or not, because the animal itself could never tell us. Whether the boy survived or not, you couldn’t go back and say exactly what caused the gorilla to do what we witnessed on that video. At best, we can we make educated guesses. It’s already been done. By…you know…educated, experienced professionals who have dedicated their careers and lives to understanding animals like Harambe. What have they to say about this?

“(But those second-guessing the call) don’t understand silverback gorillas….that child’s life was in danger. People who question that don’t understand you can’t take a risk with a silverback gorilla — this is a dangerous animal,” he said. “Looking back, we’d make the same decision. The child is safe.”


Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard

“In some situations, depending on what the medication is, it can take upward to 10 to 15 minutes,” Corwin said. “It may take multiple shots.” 


Animal expert Jeff Corwin on the viability of tranquilizers

“We’re talking about an animal that I’ve seen crush a coconut with one hand. The child was being dragged around, his head was banging on concrete. This was not a gentle thing.”
                                     Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard

This is directly from the Cincinnati Zoo’s Facebook page:

 Zoo staff and Cincinnati Fire Department (CFD) were the first responders on the scene. According to a CFD incident report, the gorilla was violently dragging and throwing the child. Minutes later, the Zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team arrived and made the difficult decision to put the gorilla down to save the child. The response team includes full-time keepers, veterinarians, maintenance, Zoo leadership and security staff members. All members are trained and certified annually by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.

Again, these are the official words of qualified individuals. Another individual who is actually qualified to speak on the matter, Ian Redmond, chairman of The Gorilla Organization, said zookeepers had other options:

“When gorilla or other apes have things they shouldn’t have, keepers will negotiate with them, bring food, their favorite treats, pineapple or some kind of fruit that they don’t know and negotiate with them.”

The more I think about it, the more I begin to realize that this is a moot point. The child’s life was more important than any animal.

I’m sorry. When gorillas have things they shouldn’t have? This wasn’t a branch, or a hat, or someone else’s food. This was a human being. A human life! If this statement is Redmond’s point of reference, then I thank him for the boost to my argument. To a gorilla, a human toddler is just a thing, a strange something that it shouldn’t have. While all the Millennial pundits are creating online petitions to charge the parents and not the zoo, the professionals, the only ones that know, are standing by their statements that they acted out of the unpredictability of a gorilla’s nature.

Maybe Harambe would have been another Binti Ju. And maybe not. That’s the entire point. We couldn’t know for certain, and at the end of the day, #humanlivesmatter. I would ask all the protesters to envision their beloved cats and dogs (since they don’t seem to understand the utter terror of seeing ones’ child in a animals keep, indicating that they probably don’t have any children), or their nieces and nephews in the presence of a male silverback gorilla. I think their responses might be a shade different.

If you were out alone in the woods, and got attacked by a Brown or Grizzly bear, you would of course react based on what you know about the animals behavior. But if other people were nearby, and they were armed, would they not shoot the animal? Would they stop and ponder, “Let this one play out. We have options here. No need to kill the animal”? They even want to pass an “Harambe’s law” that would hold any negligent party criminally and financially responsible if an endangered animal dies due to human error.

The more I think about it, the more I begin to realize that this is a moot point. The child’s life was more important than any animal.

What’s complicated about this whole thing is how these people appear to be OK with the idea of the child dying, since they say it was the mom’s negligence. Endangered or not as a species, the child was endangered right then and there. This is beyond insult to human life. I am thankful to those who have seen this and have been vocal about it.