I have an annual pass to the Melbourne zoo. We love the zoo and go as often as we can. It’s a wonderful day out for the kids. It’s also a bit of a stressful day for me with lots of things I worry about.
I worry about losing my kids in the crowd. I worry about them getting sunburned. I worry we won’t have enough time to see all the exhibits the kids want. I worry about getting my littlest to the toilets that are few and far without her wetting herself. I worry about how much money we’ll spend on treats and lunch while we’re there, because those things add up.
… but you know what I’ve never worried about?
I’ve never worried that my child could accidentally fall into an enclosure with a dangerous animal.
Not once. Not for a second.
My expectation when I take my kids to the zoo is that it is a safe place for children; sunburn, strangers and wet pants are the worst things that can happen.
People are blaming the mother for “letting” her child fall into the gorilla exhibit. There’s even been a Change.org petition calling for her to be held accountable for the death of the gorilla, 17 year old Harambe.
Hands up if you’ve ever lost your child in a public space. I know I have. Several times. Especially my eldest when he was the same age of this boy – he could vanish in the time it took me to grab an item off a supermarket shelf.
If he’d gone missing at the zoo the absolute last place I’d think to look would be inside the exhibit, because it’s reasonable to expect that an enclosure holding dangerous animals should be impenetrable to the public.
The media have also been winding people up by telling a very specific story. The story goes:
“A boy fell into an gorilla enclosure and the gorilla tried to protect the boy, but the zookeepers unnecessarily murdered the gorilla anyway.”
It’s a pretty touching story. I believed it when I first heard it, because it was accompanied by footage of what looks like Harambe trying to protect the boy – like this one. After seeing a longer version of the same clip it’s obvious that some media outlets were purposefully editing out the parts where the child is being violently dragged by the leg through the water. They’ve cut the footage a split second before the situation turned violent.
Another media outlet took a still image from the video to make it look like the gorilla was helping the child, but really this image was a moment before the child was pushed over again and dragged through the water.
Whether or not the gorilla understood what it was doing, whether it intended to cause the child harm or not, none of this should have happened.
It should not have even been possible. A child should never have been able to access the gorilla enclosure. Also the gorillas should never have been exposed to this risk.
But it’s impossible to fix things retrospectively.
All I hope is that this accident means that the enclosures are thoroughly investigated to prevent it ever happening again.