This past weekend, the Cincinnati Zoo made headlines when their Dangerous Animal Response Team killed a 17-year-old gorilla named Harambe. The death happened after a 4-year-old child fell 15-feet into the gorilla enclosure’s moat and was taken captive by the large animal.
People on social media immediately became outraged over the death and even called for the child’s parents to be charged for the unfortunate incident. But it wasn’t until recently that a logical explanation of Harambe’s death has been heard. Zookeeper Amanda O’Donoughue shared a powerful post on May 30 on Facebook saying, “I am going to try to clear up a few things that have been weighing on me about Harambe and the Cinci Zoo since I read the news this afternoon.”
O’Donoughue worked as a zookeeper, more specifically with gorillas, in her 20s. Her post focuses on, “[listing] a few facts, thoughts and opinions for those of you that aren’t familiar with the species itself, or how a zoo operates in emergency situations.”
The former zookeeper analyzes the video of the incident and ultimately agrees with the zoo’s decision:
“Harambe was most likely not going to separate himself from that child without seriously hurting him first (again due to mere size and strength, not malicious intent) Why didn’t they use treats? well, they attempted to call them off exhibit (which animals hate), the females in the group came in, but Harambe did not. What better treat for a captive animal than a real live kid!
They didn’t use Tranquilizers for a few reasons, A. Harambe would’ve taken too long to become immobilized, and could have really injured the child in the process as the drugs used may not work quickly enough depending on the stress of the situation and the dose B. Harambe would’ve have drowned in the moat if immobilized in the water, and possibly fallen on the boy trapping him and drowning him as well.
Many zoos have the protocol to call on their expertly trained dart team in the event of an animal escape or in the event that a human is trapped with a dangerous animal. They will evaluate the scene as quickly and as safely as possible, and will make the most informed decision as how they will handle the animal.”
O’Donoughue also speaks about the situation’s importance, “I can’t point fingers at anyone in this situation, but we need to really evaluate the safety of the animal enclosures from the visitor side.” O’Donoughue ends her post by expressing her sympathy for the Cincinnati Zoo faculty who have lost a beautiful animal and friend.
Despite the Facebook post being only two days old, it has already been shared over a million times. Hopefully, we all learn from this tragic event. Visiting zoos is fun but only when we’re being safe. The boy is now at home recovering from minor injuries, while his parents are being investigated by police.
Click for the full Facebook post.