October 2016, saw the resurgence of vigils being held for Harambe, in fact, there were two held in the country itself. However, it was strangely obvious that the true nature/reason for the vigils had been lost – which is surprising considering the social media firestorm that broke over this.
Who is Harambe?
In May, a 4 year old toddler had fallen into a Gorilla enclosure. Harambe – a 400 pound 7ft Silverback Gorilla – got ahold of the child and was roughhousing with the child, as he would a Gorilla young one. To rescue the child, Harambe was unfortunately shot and killed. Harambe, was one of the critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla’s, a species that is critically endangered.
What does that all mean?
Since the 80s, there have been reports of humans (toddlers and adults) falling into Zoo enclosures and either miraculously surviving or being mauled to death by the wild animals inhabiting those enclosures. Western Lowland Gorillas, like all Gorillas in the world are on the Endangered list. There are fewer than 95,000 present in the wild with about 765 being reared in captivity. Hunting for their meat along with the outbreak of diseases like Ebola (yes, even Gorillas suffer from these diseases) have wiped out their numbers by up to 60%. So killing Harambe has a lot of people upset about this.
Shooting Harambe, was a blow towards the conservation of this species.
Was there really no other way?
Most people disregard the fact, that killing Harambe was a very difficult decision to make for the Zoo Officials, and in their shoes, we would have been shaking with fear. Protect the child, or save the critically endangered Wild animal.
Harambe was like any curious Gorilla, touching, prodding, dragging something new that was in front of him. He was rough with the child, because humans are weaker than wild animals. However, from the videos it did show that Harambe was in a manner playing and being protective of the little toddler – in essence, it might have been normal Gorilla behaviour.
Experts do mention that it was playful behaviour, and they stand by the Zoo’s decision, because at the end of the day, Gorilla’s are volatile creatures. No matter how much research into a wild animal and their behaviour, it is always difficult to predict how they will react or behave. Tranquillising Harambe would have been risky because it could have agitated him – thus harming the toddler – before it finally did take effect. Tranquillisers take time to release into the blood stream, precious moments when the Gorilla had his hands on the child.
Poor Harambe, Shameful Mother?!
Social media went into quite a rage, because when you are anonymous and behind a keyboard you are bolder than if you were to say it front of a crowd face-to-face. What was shocking was many calling out the mother for not keeping an eye on her son and for being responsible for the murder of Harambe. Also worth mentioning, is that while reporters talking about Harambe were passionate and had more emotion in their voices, reporters covering mass shootings or any other violence (in America or the world) had bland, calm voices, almost as if it was ‘par for the course’.
What’s wrong with taking sides?
A video or an article does not give a complete picture. Toddlers are spritely and full of energy that losing track of them in a blink of an eye, does happen. Judging a mother and her apparent parenting capabilities is not right. We were not that family, we were not there, we were not in that family’s shoes. Condemning them is not our place. Parenting is a difficult job.
There is so much happening in the world today, keeping informed is easy and difficult. A beggar on the street, we walk by without thinking of their plight. A man doesn’t have a vehicle to transport his deceased wife because of his status in society, becomes the news of the hour. See another story like that and it’s no longer interesting. However, watch as a man throws a dog off a building and we get up in arms over it calling for that man’s head.
And that is the other side of the coin, Zoo officials and the experts were quite clear, Human life is important! However, it’s interesting to note, that most of us behind the keyboard place our preference with an animal than a human.
Also, many blamed the Mother of the child for bad parenting, instead of including the Father, he was around that day as well. It’s amazing how we all fall into the gender stereotype trap so easily. Anyway, the main issue here is not about the Zoo killing Harambe or the boy and his mother.
The issue is about this tragic situation in it’s entirety. A life was saved, while another had to be sacrificed. There are no sides to this argument – each was horrifying.
The boy for being in the clutches of a wild animal for a few minutes, for the mother watching her son get dragged by a wild animal so much more stronger than her and her boy and wondering if she would see her son again all while blaming herself, and finally Harambe, for no fault of his, being a curious Gorilla exploring something that would not have been in his natural habitat.
We overtake these amazing creatures’ homes and develop their homes to satisfy our growing population, while we stick them in closed spaces expecting to protect them and view them at our own convenience as well. It was brought home once again when silverback Kumbuka escaped his enclosure from the London Zoo recently. It was a contained situation, however, Kumbuka did want to make an escape – someone noted that the more number of visitors, the more agitated the Gorillas got and attacked each other or growled at the visitors in the zoo.
Back to Harambe
Mentioned at the start of this article, we discussed how vigils were held for Harambe. The importance of these vigils isn’t to focus on the tragedy or the blame game. It needs the focus to be on CONSERVATION. Many species are being held in captivity to propagate their species because there is no guarantee that they will be safe in their natural habitat. Humans have amassed a lot more land taking away from theses magnificent beings, however, something’s got to give. Conservation is the need of the hour. Education towards the need for these species being important for the environment is a must. That is what Harambe symbolises, not the divide between humans and wildlife nor the divide between Harambe and the mother of the toddler.