By now you’ve probably heard about Harambe, the silverback gorilla who was fatally shot over the weekend at the Cincinnati Zoo after a three-year-old boy fell into its enclosure.
A video of the incident showed the endangered primate seeming to stand watch over the child before dragging it through the water. Many onlookers have said the animal seemed to be attempting to protect the child, while zoo officials said they could not take any chances with the child’s safety because an animal of that size could have easily killed the baby within seconds.
While the entire incident is tragic, the uproar over the gorilla’s death has unleashed an ugly strain of Monday morning quarterbacking and even racially offensive comments about the child’s parents, who were Black.
A change.org petition with more than 300,000 signatures has called for the child’s parents to be charged for negligence.
“This beautiful gorilla lost his life because the boy’s parents did not keep a closer watch on the child,” the petition reads. “It is believed that the situation was caused by parental negligence and the zoo is not responsible for the child’s injuries and possible trauma.We the undersigned want the parents to be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life.”
British tabloid the Daily Mail outed the child’s parents and took the liberty to detail the father’s past criminal history–as if that played any part in what happened over the weekend.
The uproar over the killing of an animal is understandable, but the outrage at the child’s parents seems like overkill.
Let’s face it, even great parents aren’t perfect 100 percent of the time, and though tragic, accidents do happen. Folks calling for the parents should be charged for negligence weren’t present for the incident and don’t actually know what happened.
A witness who was at the zoo said the child’s parents were not busy taking selfies (as some who weren’t there have suggested), or simply not paying attention.
“This mother was not negligent and the zoo did an awesome job handling the situation!” Deidre Lykins, who saw the child fall into the gorilla enclosure, said. “This was an open exhibit! Which means the only thing separating you from the gorillas, is a 15 ish foot drop and a moat and some bushes!”
Lykins also said the child’s mother had to stop her husband from trying to jump into the exhibit to save their son, which could have easily led to both of them being harmed.
Harambe’s death is regrettable and sad, but let’s keep it in perspective–a child’s life was at stake. And no matter who was at fault for how the three-year-old ended up in the enclosure, his life–not Harambe’s–mattered most.