Monday, May 30, 2016

Harambe died horribly. Let's make his death count for something.


Cincinnati Zoo officials shot Harambe, a magnificent silverback gorilla, after an inquisitive child fell into the exhibit. The tragedy is painful for everyone: the person who pulled the trigger, keepers who loved and cared for Harambe, the visitors who admired him throughout his life and who witnessed the horror, the boy and his family, and the other gorillas in Harambe’s close-knit group.

It isn’t the first time that zoo keepers have had to deal with this kind of horrible experience. In 1996, a boy fell into the gorilla exhibit at Brookfield Zoo. Ten years earlier, a boy fell into the gorilla exhibit at Jersey Zoo, in the United Kingdom.

Many experts believe that Harambe was not trying to harm the boy; but zoo officials should not be put in the position of having to make the choice to kill. It is time for zoos to make zoos safer for their gorillas and other great apes.

Through the decades, zoos have evolved from entertainment arenas to educational facilities dedicated to improving the visitor “experience” and encouraging wildlife conservation. I hope people will sign a petition urging zoos to evolve again, into organizations that put protection of animal welfare above all other considerations. They must make ape exhibits childproof and “dummy-proof” (for those drunk or deluded visitors who imagine they have some sort of special connection with animals). This petition urges the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and specifically the Gorilla Species Survival Program, to raise exhibit standards to “impenetrable,” to improve the welfare and protect the lives of the apes under their care. This petition further urges the Gorilla SSP to be transparent and inform the public of their decisions on this issue.