On May 28, 2016, a 3-year-old boy slipped past the fence and fell into the moat of a gorilla enclosure in the Cincinnati Zoo. People stood in shock and horror as a 17-year-old western lowland silver-back gorilla named Harambe began to approach the little boy.
The 3-year-old was dragged across the moat by the 450 pound gorilla. A video taken during the incident that instantly went viral and showed the gorilla “pulling the boy’s pants up,” dragging the boy through the water, and finally apparently lifting the boy up by his ankle and almost sitting on him.
After the 10 minute encounter the zoo officials shot and killed the gorilla. Authorities have said the boy’s mother, Kimberly Ann Perkins O’Connor was with the child at the time and looked away for one minute and he was gone.
Following the incident there was an uproar over whether or not the shooting was justified. A petition for justice for Harambe earned more than 100,000 signatures within less than 48 days of its release. The petition states that “this beautiful gorilla had lost its life because this boy’s mother did not keep a close eye on him.” The animal rights movement Stop Animal Exploitation has requested an investigation by the USDA, saying the tragedy had happened because the zoo violated the Animal Welfare Act, but did not explain how or why.
Some people say that they should have tranquilized the gorilla since the western lowland silverback are critically endangered and fewer than 175,00 are in the wild and 765 in zoos worldwide. Some say that the mother is to blame since she did not keep a close eye on the child and some zoo officials felt “forced” to shoot the gorilla for the boy’s safety.
Other people that felt that Harambe’s death was justified saying that the child was at risk. Silver-back gorillas are a dangerous animal. All the screaming and yelling during the incident had just aggravated the gorilla and if they waited any longer the gorilla might have killed the little boy. Witness saw the boy clearly in danger since he was being dragged through the water forcefully. Even so after all this happening, people have been making Harambe a “meme” and turning him into trend on the Internet. Overall Harambe’s death opened the eyes of many people and shone a light on how zoos should be more cautious on these types of situations. This conversation on animal rights will likely continue long after the trend fades.