The Harambe incident was devastating. As an animal lover I’m going to admit I cried at his killing.
But as usual the internet’s reaction to this has been nothing short of vile. Particularly (and most surprisingly!) from women. As I write this I’m pregnant with twins I am well aware of the fact I can only run in one direction and I do not actually have eyes at the back of my head. I don’t know what I will do if one falls from a playground and needs me and the other decides to run … oh I don’t know… into the middle of a road. It’s the stuff a mother’s nightmares are made of.
So a child misbehaves and that makes the mother a terrible person?
So far the rage at the death of Harambe has been directed at that poor mum, who simply took her children to a zoo to entertain them for the day. What parent hasn’t had to deal with one child’s problem and turn their back on the others – just for a second? Anyone who says otherwise is an outright liar. I’ve read that ‘the boy should have been shot instead as humans are not endangered’ and I’ve read that the mother was ‘a stupid useless bitch who couldn’t control her kids’. Really? REALLY? These comments from people that don’t know her story or what kind of mother she is. Imagine how terrible she is feeling that while she was distracted by a dropped dummy or some other incident with one of her children, her wee boy got into a zoo exhibit and endangered his life AND Harambe got shot too. And think back to the video where she called out to her son ‘Be calm, mummy loves you and I’m right here.’ I can’t even begin to imagine the terror she felt thinking she may be about to witness his death. I understand everyone is looking for someone to blame, but the misdirected vitriol at that mother was completely unjust.
The mum whose son got into Harambe’s space had several small children with her including a baby. Apparently her son had said he wanted to get into the water and she had told him he wouldn’t. That’s pretty normal and right up there with toddlers saying they want to drive the car. You don’t think for a second it could happen. Especially in a place like a zoo where you trust the exhibits are secured and that it will be a safe day out for the family. And that’s key to this whole story really. Yet somewhere in all the ‘mother hating’, the zoo’s responsibility to its visitors (the majority of whom are small children) has been lost.
What do we actually know…
Fact: Kids don’t always do what they are told. Sometimes they run away – and fast. That does not automatically make it a parent’s fault or mean they are negligent.
Fact: A one, two, three, four, five year old child should not be able to get through a gap to climb into a wild animal’s enclosure. Parents should be able to go to a zoo and have their only worries be ‘did I bring enough nappies/snacks/clothing/(insert million other things children need)’? ‘Will my child be able to squeeze into an animal enclosure?’ should not have to be added to that list. That is purely the fault of the zoo.
Fact: The death of that gorilla was a terrible, heart-breaking tragedy, but sadly the zookeepers had no choice. They tried calling him and Harambe refused to leave the boy and exit the area. Tranquilizers would have taken too long and agitated him. Harambe was already fired up by the screaming zoo visitors and a small creature landing in his enclosure. Harambe weighed over 200 kilos, what chance did the child have against a swipe of his huge arm – even IF he wasn’t deliberately trying to hurt him? Let this be a HUGE and painful lesson to all zoos to inspect the safety of their zoo so this doesn’t happen again.
Fact: If you want to get angry (and you should!) get angry that these animals and so many others are endangered in the first place. Be angry at humanity and the way the habitat of these magnificent creatures has been destroyed for our gain. Be angry at the poachers who kill these gentle giants to turn their beautiful hands into ashtrays. There’s a helluva lot in this world to get angry at. Go further and be angry at Seaworld for keeping whales and dolphins captive in tiny aquariums for monetary gain and human entertainment. Be angry at the dairy and agriculture industry and the way animals are abused and tortured for our food. But get real. A mum battling taking her kids to the zoo for a family day out is not one of the things to get angry about.