Since the tragic killing of Harambe the 17-year-old gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo, there has been an incredible amount of debate on either side as to whether or not shooting the animal, after a young boy fell into his enclosure, was the right thing to do. With footage from the event plastered across nearly all news outlets, many have rallied in defense of the gorilla, stating he looked as if he was protecting the boy, while others have boisterously insisted the gorilla needed to be shot due to the threat he posed to the child. If you’ve been on social media or turned on a TV in the past few days, chances are you’ve been hit with a deluge from both ends and perspectives.
As the world has been up in flames arguing every possible side of this issue, Jane Goodall, famed primatologist sent a very simple and precise email to the director of the Cincinnati Zoo in response:
Rather than lashing out at Thane Maynard for his choice and feeding into the scandal that this has become, Goodall’s response is one that has been so sorely missing from every conversation about this topic. The tragedy of the gorilla’s loss and the world’s reaction to it has been turned into pure media fodder and cocktail conversation, but no one seems to want to get to the heart of the matter. A gorilla, in a zoo, was killed because of the potential threat he posed to a child who fell into his enclosure. The gorilla didn’t ask to be put in this situation, and certainly the little boy didn’t want to be the cause of all of this, but regardless both came to pass because of decisions that neither were a part of. What Jane does in this email is connect with Maynard on a human level, empathizing with the gravity of the choice he made and highlighting how this sad event must have also affected the gorillas that knew Harambe.
Right or wrong in this situation can be debated for the rest of time, but we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the dual tragedy here: the fact that a gorilla was killed and also that he was in captivity. The wrongdoing, in this case, began the day this gorilla was placed into a cage and stripped of any potential life in the wild. Inevitably, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time when the little boy entered his created territory. This isn’t about the fault of the gorilla or the people who killed him, it’s about all of us and our failure to see this animal and ourselves as Jane does in this email – sentient, feeling beings that do not deserve any of this treatment.
If instead of arguing with each other about this event we turned that energy to solving the larger issue here, we could come to a much more positive resolve. One where we could ensure that no child or animal ever need become the victim of circumstances that neither was meant to be in.
What do you think Green Monsters? Is that the sort of future you want to see?