Over the past few days, the incident of a four-year-old boy, who had somehow ended up in a gorilla’s pit at the Cincinatti zoo, in which one of the gorillas was then shot dead in order to keep the boy safe, has turbulently taken the Internet by storm. Countless tweets, facebook posts, blogs, and articles have been written about the incident, some justifying the killing of the gorilla for the boy’s safety, while others showing immense outrage, stating that the boy’s mother — Michelle Gregg — was “negligent,” and that the gorilla, as beautiful and endangered as Harambe (the name of the gorilla), should not have been killed.
Curious, I decided to watch the video, that had quickly gone viral over the web, to see what all the fuss was about. To say I was horrified is an understatement. I kept wondering: What if that was my kid, sitting there in the shallow water beside that monstrous 400+ pound gorilla? What if that was my precious Zohal or Zaryab in that enclosure, so close — so very close — to death? As any mother, I, too, would have wanted that gorilla killed ASAP so that no harm would come to my child. There is no doubt in my mind about that.
However, I do not want to come off as being inhumane and insensitive towards the seemingly innocent animal that had to be killed in the unfortunate process. As an avid animal-lover, it pains me to see animals held in captivity, tortured, and killed (either for sport or leisure). At the same time, if I had to choose between an endangered animal and a human child, I would pick the life and safety of the child. Why? Because I, too, have children of my own. And I love them to the core of my being; I would do anything — anything — in my power to make sure no harm ever comes to them. A mother’s love for her children surpasses pretty much everything in existence; she would even go as far as to kill to ensure the safety of her offsprings.
At least I would.
Yet, despite the uproar over the killing of Harambe, what particularly disturbed me the most (and hence compelled me to write this blog post) was peoples’ reaction and attitude towards the little boy’s mother. It appears that she has been receiving the brunt of the vitriol, where people are accusing her of being a “bad mother/parent” and for being “negligent.” In fact it has gotten so bad that the poor woman is actually receiving death threats and so-called animal rights’ activists are demanding that her son be handed over to child protection services as she is an “unfit mother.” The irony is that Gregg is receiving death threats from the same people who claim to value life, except in this case, they seem to care more about the life of an animal than a human being. It’s sad and deeply unsettling that there exist people in the world who would rather see the child die instead of an animal. I’ve even come across despicable memes, such as the ones below, that has made me question humanity and how people are so incredibly quick to judge and place blame:
Yes, people, mistakes do happen, and it happens to the best of us. Gregg made a “mistake,” but she was not a negligent parent. Not necessarily anyway. Perhaps briefly distracted, but definitely not full-out negligent. I’ve had friends tell me that she shouldn’t have handled and taken all four of her kids to the zoo, and should have ensured that there was more than one adult present. However, I personally would not judge this woman, simply based on that horrific incident. It was known that she worked as a daycare provider. So, that means that she was most likely used to handling several children at once. She probably assumed it would be okay to take four kids to the zoo together, and be able to handle them all by herself. The boy might have slipped away in a split second, and zoos are known to be huge! The mother probably lost him the second she noticed he was gone, and by the time she found him he may have already made his way into the gorilla’s den.
It’s complicated trying to comprehend this, because we weren’t there to witness it all. I just know that dealing with a toddler is no picnic. Those of us with toddlers know how much of a handful these little rascals can be. Fellow mothers very well know the struggle of a hyperactive toddler, who just for the love of science and sushi won’t sit still. How many of us have briefly turned around to grab something out of our purses for a split second, only to turn around to see our toddler running full speed towards the road or around a corner, quickly disappearing out of sight? How many of us have literally dropped everything to run after our toddlers like we are in a marathon to save them from hurting themselves in public? Parents of toddlers know, and know this very well, that if our kids were in the Olympics, they’d beat out the competition with every single adult who are competing. They are extremely fast (lightning bolts have nothing on them), and full of so much energy (Energizer bunny, take a seat) that it’s exhausting enough just watching them.
As a mother of a 2-year-old, I constantly hesitate each time my family plan an outing to the park, beach, or, yes, the zoo. I hesitate because I know the struggle is very real — the struggle of having to constantly keep a watchful eye on my energizer-bunny toddler so that she doesn’t end up disappearing or seriously hurting herself. Even going to the mall is a struggle. How many times have we gone to the mall to shop with a toddler, to instead end up running around in circles after them so that they wouldn’t get lost in the crowd? It’s impossible to go anywhere with them, unless, of course, you put them on a leash. I used to be against the idea of a leash before I became a mother. I thought the idea was horrific and belittling, but now? I’d leash up my little girl if it ensured that she’d constantly be by my side, and most importantly, safe!
We need to stop judging Gregg for being a “bad mother” and saying shit like, “She should have kept a better eye on her son.” Stop blaming Gregg’s so-called negligence of her son for Harambe’s death. Stop dictating to us about what a good and perfect mother acts like; better yet, don’t dictate at all. Perhaps you are lucky that you’ve never seen your toddler in serious danger yet, but you can’t assume something about a person without knowing what or how they are really like. That is arrogance. You don’t know her, so you have absolutely no right to judge her. This horrific incident is by no means an inclusive indication of her parenting skills, and we seriously just need to leave the poor woman alone! She’s already been through hell and back; the last thing she needs is a bunch of judgmental assholes bashing her and blaming her for something that, like she said, was a mistake.
I guess I just feel it is unfair to judge this woman on this single incident. I personally know so many people whose babies have Accidentally fallen off of beds, or rolled over sofas and fallen to the floor; should we call those parents negligent too? It’s hard to say. I know I can’t compare a baby falling off of the bed to a baby falling into a gorilla’s den; but the premise is the same. Both times, the parents weren’t there to save or protect them.
On a final note, while I agree that Harambe’s death was painful to bear, it would have been even more heartbreakingly painful had that child died instead. We can argue all we want and assume things like, “Oh, but the gorilla seemed like he was ‘protecting’ the boy,” or “The gorilla is known to be a ‘gentle giant’ and was not going to hurt the child.” The fact of the matter is that, at the end of the day, Harambe was an animal regardless of how calm and gentle he was. And it was only a matter of time until he seriously hurt, and perhaps even killed, the child. There wasn’t much time for vacant assumptions. Quick action needed to be taken, before tragedy were to happen. Killing Harambe wasn’t intentional, but it was necessary. It was a necessary evil; an extremely unfortunate event. But, as a mother, I totally get it.
If that were my child, I would have taken the pistol from the zookeeper and shot the animal myself.
May Harambe rest in peace, and may Gregg and her sweet son find the peace and solace they deserve.
P.s.: We also really need to get rid of the idea of zoos all together. We shouldn’t put animals in captivity like this anymore. I’d love to see a petition to end zoos for good. Anyone interested in creating one? Please contact me at email@example.com. Thanks in advance!