Last week I was laughing rather manically at the ‘Chewbacca Mom’. She rose to internet fame through, perfectly innocently, uploading a video of herself on social media wearing a Chewbacca mask and very endearingly giggling at how she looked. Little did she know the clip would go viral propelling her to worldwide stardom. She’s now enjoying free gifts, meets with celebrities and a trip to Disneyworld – and good for her I say! That’s the power of social media and the Internet these days, stories can go viral, worldwide, totally at random at the touch of the button.
This week, like so many others, I’m devastated by the news of endangered gorilla, Harambe, who was shot dead by zoo officials after a small child fell into his enclosure. Again, a short clip taken and uploaded from a visitors mobile phone has made it possible for absolutely anyone to judge and pass comment on the difficult decision of what to do in this situation. The story has gone colossal, the hashtags #Harambe #RIPHarambe are trending like crazy. A change.org petition is wracking up signatures from people who criticise the zoo and want the little boys parents to be accountable for the silverbacks death, and endangering their child. Animal protection charities are mourning the loss of Harambe and it gives them further ammunition for their argument against wild animals in captivity.
I’ve followed this story with interest. It’s a very difficult situation and incredibly sad that a nice family day out could spiral in such heartache and controversy. My son loves animals and I fully intend to take him to zoos when he’s older, not just to ogle at animals but to learn about the different species, habitats, geography and evolution. I donate to the WWF on a monthly basis to safeguard animals in their natural habitat, but don’t have a problem with zoos – particularly if the animals are bred in captivity they don’t know any different and are well cared for often living longer lives.
I watched the footage of Harambe and the little boy and found it both chilling and amazing. At points the gorilla is guarding and holding hands with the child, it’s very beautiful to see. But then he powerfully drags him around the enclosure, ducking under water at great speed. He certainly doesn’t appear to be trying to harm the child, quite the opposite, but at the same time he is in a stressful situation and his strength has the ability to cause accidental harm, or worse, to a fragile 4 year old boy.
I don’t know much about gorillas, but I do know that wild animals, a bit like wild children, are unpredictable. There’s no way that child’s mother could predict that her son was going to somehow manage to get into that enclosure – there’s been times when I’ve turned my back on my son for a split second and he’s fallen off the bed and scraped his head. The guilt I felt was absolutely tremendous – so I can’t imagine what the mother of that boy must feel. I have two lovely, gentle natured cats – but I wouldn’t leave them alone with my horror of a son. I also know as a parent to a little boy I’d do anything to protect him, and if it was my child, I’d want him out of that enclosure as soon as possible, I’d be prepared to jump in there to protect him, or pull the trigger myself. There’s no way anyone could predict what the gorilla was going to do next and what the outcome would be. So, for me, in my personal and humble opinion, I think the action they took was for the best. The gamble was just too great.
However devastating the outcome, this whole incident was an accident. A bit like my son falling from the bed, (albeit not on the same scale) and accidents happen – particularly when it comes to boisterous, excited little boys. It wasn’t premeditated, it wasn’t intended. We live in a society of blame, accountability and justice. But, on this occasion can’t we just mourn the loss but accept it was a tragic accident and support the family and zoo when they undoubtedly need it most?