The Cincinnati gorilla incident: what would you do?

As many of you know, a 4-year-old boy, with his mother’s attention distracted, went through the fence separating the gorilla enclosure from the visitors at the Cincinnati Zoo last Saturday. The child then made his way through the vegetation, falling into a deep moat around the gorilla space. Hearing the splash, a male silverback gorilla named Harambe jumped into the moat, grabbed the child, and dragged it around. Some of the dragging was violent, and zoo workers decided that the only recourse was to shoot the gorilla. (Tranquilizer darts would have taken effect too slowly, and might have enraged the animal.) Here’s a video of part of the incident:

There have been a lot of protests, with animal-rights advocates second-guessing the zoo (why didn’t they tranquilize the animal?) or urging that the mother be charged with negligence. While I am deeply upset at the whole episode, I don’t see a viable alternative to the zoo’s decision. A male silverback—and this one could crush a coconut with his bare hands—is immensely strong, and could have killed the child in an instant. Would it have been judicious to wait and see what happened to the child? Perhaps it could have been rescued, as was a child who fell into a gorilla cage at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago (this was in 1996) and was actually handed to the keepers by a gorilla who cradled the unconscious child solicitously. But that gorilla behaved very differently from Harambe.

Should the zoo have killed the animal? Given its behavior, yes. Should the mother be charged with negligence? I don’t think so: she was tending three other children, including a babe in arms. Kids get away sometimes.

I always hate it when animals are punished for behaving according to their genes and environments, and in so doing harm humans. Killing tigers and lions that have eaten a person always disturbs me greatly, and I’m not sure what to think about that. Nor do I know what steps should be taken here; the Zoo is reviewing the enclosure layout. What I do think, however, is that we need to stop keeping great apes in captivity unless they’re kept to breed and release into the wild. I know their habitat is shrinking, but remember that these are social animals evolved to roam in the wild. They are not exhibits to gawk at.

Oh, and I have one other beef. As People Magazine reports, the boy’s mother said this:

Michelle Gregg defended herself in a now-deleted Facebook post, writing: “God protected my child until the authorities were able to get to him. My son is safe and was able to walk away with a concussion and a few scrapes… no broken bones or internal injuries.”

Seriously—God protected the child? Why didn’t God keep the kid from jumping into the moat?

h/t: Su



  1. nickswearsky
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    I’d let nature take its course. The kid gets out OK or not. The gorilla is just being a gorilla.

    • Marc
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      We’re part of nature. Nature took its course, and I would hope it would follow the same course if something similar unfortunately occurs again.

      The gorilla was just being a gorilla and the humans who chose to protect the child by killing the gorilla were just being human.

      I’m not saying there’s no ethical conundrum here, but drop the “let nature take its course” bullshit. That’s lazy moral reasoning.

      • sensorrhea
        Posted June 2, 2016 at 6:23 am | Permalink

        I think “we’re part of nature” is lazy existential reasoning. In essence it’s a tautology reducible to “we’re part of everything.”

        We either need to use the term nature to mean something more than “everything” or “all biology.” We need a good replacement word that separates humans from everything else, because we do stand out from everything else. Not because we have souls, but because of the mental discontinuity between us and our closest relative that allows us to use tools the way we do.

    • Alpha Neil
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      How do you feel about bacterial infections? The E. coli are just being E. coli.

      • Frank Bath
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        I can’t let this pass. While life is life E. coli is a mortal threat to us. It is also a senseless organism.

        • Torbjörn Larsson
          Posted May 31, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

          It has more sense than our own bodies, brain and all, if it manage to infect us and spread that way. (Not so much E. coli but other infectious agents.)

        • Alpha Neil
          Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

          I’m not sure what you can’t let pass. I was posing the question to nickswearsky to point out how stupid his “let nature take it’s course” idea is.

        • darrelle
          Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

          That misses the point that Alpha Neil was commenting on. nickswearsky wrote “I’d let nature take its course.”

          By your response you also do not think that letting nature take its course is a reasonable, or at least sufficient, position.

        • madscientist
          Posted May 31, 2016 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

          e. coli is an extremely useful organism and has facilitated incredible advances in medicine and genetic manipulation in the past 40 years. Among other things, since the late 1970s e. coli has been used to produce human insulin.

          • Posted June 1, 2016 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

            Let’s shame all humans who commit a genocide against their E. coli colonies by consenting to antibiotic treatment, for whatever reason! Also, when you have to release a part of your colony to the wild by defecation, never use a toilet with disinfectants that would kill the bacteria!
            (This is tongue in cheek, of course.)

    • Posted May 31, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      As Marc pointed out, we humans *are* part of nature, including our tools. While the death of the gorilla is extremely lamentable, is shooting it to protect a human child essentially different from a scenario in which a gorilla might protect its young by throwing a rock at the offender?

    • eric
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      If nature took it course, that gorilla would not have been in the Cincinnati zoo but in sub-Saharan Africa. A zoo is a fully human invention, created by us, maintained by us, for our benefit (such as it is). When something goes wrong in a zoo enclosure, there is nothing “natural” about it, and humans should step in to fix the problem humans created.

      • madscientist
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

        As a scientist I’d say nature did run its course and as a result the gorilla was imprisoned and later shot. It seems strange to me that people like to class human actiion as not part of nature. For me one of the few distinctions which isn’t entirely absurd is that between objects formed by natural processes and anthropogenic objects formed with human intervention. Even there the distinction is often nonsensical since we can reproduce some objects which are found in nature.

        • eric
          Posted May 31, 2016 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

          That is indeed another way of defining ‘nature’. The word has multiple meanings. However, your meaning is clearly not what Nick intended. Do we really need to be excessively pedantic and insist the word have one and only one denotation?

          Its not like that would help clarify language or reduce confusion, because there was nothing confusing about Nick’s claim to begin with.

        • Isaac
          Posted June 2, 2016 at 12:14 am | Permalink

          Wait a second, the gorilla was imprisoned and later shot? I have hitherto assuming that the gorilla was shot in self-defense, or to be more specific, in defense of a child who was in danger. If the gorilla was imprisoned and later shot then that is absolutely idiotic. What is the point in shooting the gorilla once the kid was safe? To deter other gorillas who might manhandle a hapless child who falls in the moat? Or as retribution for ..what exactly? The usefulness of the death penalty in humans is highly questionable, but in lower animals it is just plain asinine.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted June 2, 2016 at 3:34 am | Permalink

            I think you’re misreading a comment there. The gorilla was ‘imprisoned’ – in a zoo – and some years later, due to unfortunate circumstances, shot.

            I don’t think that’s quite the way you read that comment.


            • Isaac
              Posted June 2, 2016 at 11:13 am | Permalink

              That makes a lot more sense. Thanks!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

      The naturalistic fallacy … ad absurdum. (Intentionally so, I hope.)

  2. mordacious1
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Once the child fell in, this was the only option (given the circumstances). What the zoo should have done though, is assume that stupid people who don’t control their brats would visit the zoo. They should have made sure that each exhibit, but especially dangerous animals like lions, tigers and bears…oh my!, was 100% impenetrable by meandering children. This is where they failed this wonderful animal. Maybe the zoo should have restrictions on certain animals until they get their stuff together.

    This mother should be fined and assigned community service (picking up elephant poo). She seems to think nothing is her fault.

    • rickflick
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      I think the mother’s responsibility is diminished when you consider that a zoo cages should not be so easily breached by a small child. It is the zoo’s responsibility to meet the public’s expectation for safety.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        Old “joke” of the “ha ha but serious” classification.
        “The problem with making things foolproof is that fools can be so Damned ingenious.”
        Same joke, different form : [sweeps arm along shelf of Health & Safety regulations, procedures and checklists] “Every one, EVERY SINGLE ONE of these rules is written in the blood of someone who caused the rule to be written.”
        Sharing an office with a HSE supervisor can be depressing.

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 2:46 am | Permalink

        Agree! Seems as if a lot of these terrifying incidents occur when a parent is holding up a toddler so that the little one can see what’s going on. (Though not this latest tragedy.)

        Hey, zoos! Parents take their kids to zoos! (Parents seldom take just themselves to zoos, by the bye.) But zoo exhibits are often bordered by walls, plantings, or both up to at least adult-waist height. So–parents hold little Timmy up because that’s the only way he’s ever going to be able to see it. How hard would it be to put kiddie windows or woven wire so something else that can be looked through at little kid level?

        • Diane G.
          Posted June 17, 2016 at 2:48 am | Permalink

          Last sentence–“so” should be “or.”

        • rickflick
          Posted June 17, 2016 at 6:46 am | Permalink

          Another approach is to put the family safely in a gondola high enough so the elephants can’t reach it. I visited a park like this years ago (I forget where). The gondola pass slowly through all parts of the zoo and the creatures below are in a a large natural setting where barriers and confinement are less apparent.

    • Posted May 31, 2016 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

      I agree.

      Complete enclosure is easily achieved. Perhaps it’s immoral to imprison animals that way, but given that we do, safety should be the priority.

  3. John B.
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Thanks for a very reasonable and balanced view, Jerry. Most of the comments on that YouTube video are hysterical and vulgar with so much hate spewed at the mother, the kid, and the zoo.

  4. Scott Draper
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    They need some of the tranquilizer darts they use in the movies, because those work instantaneously.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      And never over dose the recipient, and never miss.
      A colleague some years ago ran a game park in Zambia (IIRC), and was occasionally involved in dehorning rhinos. The prospect of one of the capture team getting hit by a dart dosed, absolutely literally, to bring down an angry, scared, rhino on 110% pure adrenaline …
      I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer I posted a few moments ago, about HSE rules being written in blood.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        One of the comments of the zoo staff was that because of the likely raised adrenaline of the gorilla, a tranquilizer dart may take a while to work and put the child in danger.

        I personally thought the gorilla was guarding the child, but that is no guarantee of his safety, or that the staff would be able to get him back.

        You can’t watch children all the time despite what today’s society insists. The mother may have been at fault just by having too many children, which may have been because of some personal beliefs relating to contraception – she seemed to have had lots of kids in a short space of time. But so did my mother without those beliefs, and we didn’t spend much time attached to her apron strings either, which I see as a good thing.

        The worst thing we know about about her was, as Jerry says, her warped logic about God protecting her son.

        I lament the loss of this beautiful animal, but I don’t know if blame can be attributed anywhere. $hit happens.

        • eric
          Posted May 31, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

          Our local zoo uses something like 10′ plexiglass even for some of the outdoor exhibits (along with the moats etc.)

          At the same time, the mother should know her limits; four kids (one an infant) seems quite a lot in terms of one person’s ability to keep up. I understand she doesn’t want family size to limit her kids’ experience. But you can still do it safely: if you can’t handle the crowd, team up with another parent and go to the zoo whee you can better your odds (5 or 6 to 2 is much better than 4 to 1). Or heck, call in the grandparents as backup – isn’t this the sort of thing they’re for?

          Having a 5-year-old boy, I somewhat sympathize with the mother. However ultimately if something happened to my kid at the zoo because I was distracted, it would be fair to blame me. Not the zoo, not God, me. So I have no problem laying some of the blame at her feet. The zoo cannot be made idiot-proof, true, but your job as a parent is to ensure your kid isn’t that idiot.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted May 31, 2016 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

            I see your point, but some kids just aren’t that easy to control no matter how good a parent you are. I can see my brother (when we were kids) tumbling into that moat, though the last thing my mother would’ve been yelling over the side is, “Mummy loves you,” or even, “Mummy’s right here.” I know kids who even when it’s one on one or two parents and one child, and the parents are great, it’s all but impossible to control the kid because of an issue they can’t control. (I don’t want to go labeling people by naming the issue.)

            Some people are idiots, and the zoo can’t foresee every circumstance, and though I get the impression this mother is an idiot, I’m reluctant to pass judgment. Besides, women without children aren’t allowed to even discuss such issues, or so I’ve been told in the past!:-/

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted May 31, 2016 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

              I can only imagine what my mother would have been yelling. It would not have “love” in it. Most likely something like this would have happened on my dad’s watch though as he was more lenient when it came to potentially dangerous situations. I never did get hurt with him though but my mother was forever annoyed with his laissez faire attitude about steep drops to your death and such.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted May 31, 2016 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

                I suspect I would’ve been safer with the gorilla.🙂 I would’ve been smacked for falling in, and it would definitely have been my fault, whatever the condition of the railings, supervision etc. “You’re the eldest, you should know better,” comes to mind. If my father was even there, he would’ve wandered off on his own long ago.

                I nearly drowned three times, and Mum rescued me on one of those occasions while Dad watched from the beach. It was my own fault I got into difficulty though. (One time I managed to rescue myself, and on the third the dog, a Labrador, helped me rescue myself. They were me being too adventurous/stupid as well.)

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted May 31, 2016 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

                Maybe we had the same mom because my mom would have totally smacked me too and before that threatened me with the smacking.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted May 31, 2016 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

                Sounds like it! (Except mine was a mum, not a mom!) And every time I thought how unfair it was. I’m 100% opposed to smacking now.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted May 31, 2016 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

                My mom thinks she’s a mum but I use the Canadian instead of the Kiwi version. At least I say “apricot” her way.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

                Better than nothing!🙂

            • eric
              Posted May 31, 2016 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

              I see your point, but some kids just aren’t that easy to control no matter how good a parent you are

              I think my point was that you don’t go it alone when you have one of those kids. You wait until you have enough chaperone help to manage them. Yes, that’s a sacrifice. But its certainly not undoable; saying “wait until you can bring someone to help you” is not equivalent to saying “if you have one of those kids, too bad so sad you should never go to the zoo.”

              Another possibility is leaving the infant at home with dad or another relative if they can’t/wont go to the zoo with you. Or heck, shell out the $10-$15/hr for a babysitter. Or heck, get another parent to agree with a time swap (you watch my kid today, I’ll watch yours next saturday).

              Now yes, none of those options may be available for the dirt-poor single parent with no friends, family, and the completely unmanageable child. I’m willing to say that if you’re that person, life has dealt you a hand with not many zoo possibilities in its future. I”m okay with that. Not every opportunity is reasonably available to every person; that’s life. But really, the vast majority of parents will not be in such dire straits that absolutely no responsible zoo-going solution is possible.

            • Filippo
              Posted June 1, 2016 at 5:43 am | Permalink

              “Besides, women without children aren’t allowed to even discuss such issues, or so I’ve been told in the past!”

              I dare say that not a few teachers of whatever sex (or gender identity), burdened with legally-imposed “in loco parentis” responsibility for mass quantities of students, will decline to be so muzzled. (Everyone should have the “privilege” of chaperoning and otherwise being responsible for the behavior of middle school students on a field trip.)

              The Cincinnati Zoo spokesman was quick to aver and emphasize that the barrier met accrediting agency requirements, and that it had successfully served its purpose since 1978. (I’m reminded of Al Gore’s “controlling legal authority” response/defense regarding I forget what incident when he was VPOTUS.) I wonder how often and closely the barrier is inspected. The kid certainly did a good – and quick – job “inspecting” and “hacking” the barrier.

        • Posted June 1, 2016 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

          To have some safety, you practically need one adult per child. And even then you have no guarantee, because some children are very good at straying away in milliseconds when you are not watching them. I was once at a zoo with my 2 sons and a friend, and one of the kids managed to slip in the crowd. As we started to look for him, I complained that in such moments you are not sure that you will ever see the child (alive) again. Reading about the unfortunate incident in Cincinnati, I remember that day and I do not judge the mother too much. Indeed, she is now speaking like an anal opening. I guess she is feeling guilty and tries to shift away the responsibility, preferably to G*d who is presumed to know his business.

  5. Scott Draper
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    “mother be charged with negligence”

    All parents are occasionally negligent…you can’t watch your child all of the time. The fact that most children survive this negligence is a matter of good luck, rather than good parenting.

    • Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      This is spot on. To blame this exclusively on the mother is absurd. A child is not a fully controllable variable in life. If anything, we count on them to test boundaries as part of the growing and learning process.

    • Vaal
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Sooo true. Since becoming a parent I’ve become less judgemental of other parents.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

      She or he that is without childcare-negligence among you, let him or her cast the first stone at this mom.

      • Ken Daniels
        Posted June 2, 2016 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

        A place with wild animals is no place for inattentive parenting. If you can’t keep your eyes or your hands on your child at all times while at a zoo then you have no business being at a zoo.

        The excuse that “kids can disappear in a split second” might be acceptable when you’re at the mall or a restaurant, but when you’re surrounded by dangerous animals, that is a stupid excuse.

  6. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I think it’s fair to say that once the child was in the pit, the zookeepers had no option but to try to save his life by any means necessary.

    That said, however, there’s no shortage of four-year-old boys in the world. Gorillas, on the other hand, may be extinct within a few generations. So I reluctantly must count the (necessary) death of the gorilla as a greater tragedy than the one that was averted.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      Heh. I thought the same thing. The gorilla was more valuable.

      Of course, I can’t see another way out of the mess but again an animal suffers because of humans – humans who display the gorilla in captivity then by their behaviour while viewing said gorilla, get the poor thing shot.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        I think the gorilla was more valuable too, but that’s not to say I want a child to die either, or that the child was without value. I liked your Facebook picture about it, and won’t be removing my like.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted May 31, 2016 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, it was a bad call and it’s all the fault of the humans not the gorilla who was just doing what a gorilla does. As you say in this thread, “shit happens”. There was no choice but to shoot the poor gorilla but imagine having to pull that trigger? Oh such a horrible thing to have to do. I’d probably hesitate and everything would get worse

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      Oh and this incident shows why humans wouldn’t be better off with robot or ape overlords as both would have favoured the gorilla over the human. The apes for the same reason the human keepers favoured the life of the child over the gorilla and the robots for the logical reason that the gorilla is more valuable given its status as an endangered species.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

        Sounds like a boffo pitch for a movie. I’ll check on Charlton Heston’s avail.

        Now let’s talk about what’s in the Soylent Green.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

          There is a radio show on CBC Radio One called The Debaters. Comedians are given topics to debate. One topic was who would make better overlords, robots or apes. It was one of the funniest segments I’ve heard.

        • Diane G.
          Posted June 17, 2016 at 2:57 am | Permalink

          Diana may be too young to have seen the original movie. 😀

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted June 17, 2016 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

            Oh no, I’m a fan of Soylent Green. I once was on a team at work and we called ourselves “Soylent Green”. We made up green t-shirts and we put the motto, “our strength is people” (my idea). Most didn’t get the joke. But we were IT nerds that found it funny.

    • Jeff Lewis
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      This is something I’ve thought about in my own musings on morality. How do we place value on individuals when trying to do moral calculus? If you consider it from an individual’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (as far as you can extend those to non-humans), what difference does it make whether the individual belongs to an endangered species? Don’t other individuals have the same ‘rights’? If you carry that over to humans, does it mean that minorities or individuals from vanishing cultures are more valuable than others? Is it a greater tragedy when one of the Yanomami dies than when an American dies? Or is it more about protecting biodiversity as an end unto itself, and not about that individual gorilla? But that would seem to indicate that losing a sperm collection would be a greater tragedy than losing a single gorilla, especially a single male gorilla.

      I guess I just tend to think about morality a lot in terms of individualism, and from that viewpoint, the conservation status of the species an individual belongs to doesn’t seem to weigh too much on the moral considerations of that individual.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        Those are fair points, but consider this: a Secret Service agent has the same moral rights as the President he protects. Nevertheless, when push comes to shove, it’s reasonable to place a higher value on outcomes that feature a live President and a dead agent than on the converse.

        • Jeff Lewis
          Posted May 31, 2016 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

          I’ve actually considered that case, as well, and that’s a relatively easy one because the Secret Service agents volunteered for the job knowing what it entails. A tougher problem is when it comes to protecting the President at the cost of other citizens who haven’t agreed that they’d trade their lives for his/hers (maybe in the near future). In reality I know what would happen, but not necessarily what should happen.

        • mordacious1
          Posted May 31, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

          I don’t know. Presidents are easy to replace and really have no known qualifications, other than being a natural born, 35 year old American. Good Secret Service agents are difficult to recruit and train.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

            And two of the last three presidents have been lawyers. That should count against ’em too, right?

            • Filippo
              Posted June 1, 2016 at 8:14 am | Permalink

              In the late 80’s I read an interview with John Sununu in an engineering magazine. He reflected that at one time he was the only U.S. representative in Congress who was an engineer, whereas there were 261 lawyers.

              • Posted June 1, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

                If he’s what engineers in Congress would be like, we don’t need more of them.

          • Diane G.
            Posted June 17, 2016 at 3:00 am | Permalink

            Exactly! Not just anyone is capable of partying with prostitutes on the public dime.

  7. Alpha Neil
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    What a difficult situation. The killing shot itself must have been stressful because a wounding shot could send the gorilla into a rage. Not to mention the presence of the boy nearby.

  8. David Duncan
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    The tranquilizer dart would have been my choice. I have nothing against the boy or his mother, but four year old boys are not an endangered species.

    I also have no problem with keeping animals in zoos, so long as their enclosures are large enough and sufficiently varied.

    • eric
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

      You, Diana, and Heather have all made this point about endangered-ness and relative value. However, I think you ignore one practical reality of animal keeping, which is that when an animal kills a human, we pretty much never allow it to live after the fact. We almost always put it down – even with endangered species, such as tigers and so on.

      Had zoo keepers attempted to tranquilize the gorilla or save the child without hurting the gorilla in another way, and the gorilla had killed the child in the process, then the gorilla would almost be certainly dead now anyway.

      • Posted May 31, 2016 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

        “However, I think you ignore one practical reality of animal keeping, which is that when an animal kills a human, we pretty much never allow it to live after the fact. We almost always put it down – even with endangered species, such as tigers and so on.”

        I don’t believe that to be the case. It may possibly be true if an animal kills a human for food, but I think that’s an extremely rare exception when talking about captive animals.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

        It’s true the gorilla may have more value than the child but, if you read my posts, I have concluded that despite this, the keepers had no choice but to kill the gorilla. I also don’t agree with animals being destroyed for killing humans at least not in captivity. I can see if bears or such get cocky and start killing humans on the regular because you can’t break a bear of that and that’s why people shouldn’t feed them etc but a captive animal being destroyed when it could be controlled after it had killed doesn’t seem logical to me.

        • Filippo
          Posted June 1, 2016 at 8:21 am | Permalink

          Regarding bears, U.S. national parks (Great Smoky Mountains National Park a prime example) are excellent places to observe the great intelligence of human primates. By all means, yes, let us closely approach a female bear with one or more cubs.

          • Posted June 1, 2016 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

            Modern urban environment apparently cultivates a special stupid attitude to animals and all nature – that it is friendly and safe. I’ve read in a textbook that snakebite victims in the Third World are typically farmers, wood-cutters and other people bitten on the legs while walking on their business, while in the West, most victims are bitten on the hands while handling (!) the venomous snake.

  9. Posted May 31, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    A really big difference between the two gorilla incidents is that the Chicago incident involved a female, generally protective of young. Big males can be exactly the opposite, being known to kill rival young. Keepers familiar with the male gorilla saw the cavalier dragging-through-the-water-and-rattling-the-noggin-on-the-concrete behavior as a probable indicator that the kid was about to become an ex-brat. The decision to shoot the gorilla was, at that time, a no-brainer.

    Even if one cares not one whit for the human life in the balance, the consequences of not doing everything in their power to save the boy–and having the boy then get killed or even injured–would’ve been writing a blank check to the parents. Game over.

    That being said, the kid was overheard multiple times saying he wanted to get in the moat. That was the time to take the kids away to gawk at the raptors or something. Or better yet, make good on a promise to deprive said kid of their Saturday zoo outing “if he cannot behave”. I read poorly-written accounts of whether a father was there or not to help out, so am not sure why all the wrath is focused on the mother. Also have read conflicting accounts of the mother being on her cell (as opposed to the entire breach happening in “seconds”). Someone claiming to be a regular patron of that zoo said there were 3 barriers in addition to bushes to get through. Not sure what that means to the “seconds” theory.

    Maybe people going to zoos juggling four kids in the danger age-range should be required to be a zoo exhibit for an hour or two before they are released into the general population, presuming their sprogs’ behavior was respectful and everybody seemed to be having a good day. I guess that wouldn’t fly, though. Only in my dreams.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      IIRC the earlier incident with the female gorilla also turned out well because the gorilla had been trained to hand over a doll to staff as a way to get her to hand over her baby for examination.

    • Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      I don’t really understand this line of reasoning. Sure, the parents could have done better. But if I take my kid to the zoo, the most I am worried about is them getting lost in the crowd, or dehydrated, or hurt by a stranger. At no point do I think the animals themselves (at least the large ones) would ever be a threat, even to a very adventurous child. This assumption is part of the contract between zoo and zoo-goer.

      • rickflick
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        That’s right. Otherwise, the brochure would say: “Come on down and enjoy the animals at the Zoo! (No children under 12 allowed due to the generous spacing of cage bars)”.

        • Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

          Haha, that makes me think of old cartoons of zoo scenes, with a lion pacing in a tiny cage within arm’s reach and very generous bar spacing.

      • Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        There’s another part of the contract, issued by the zoo when you go there, which informs the public not to stand on, cross, or subvert any of the barriers or the exhibits. If your (very small & adventurous) kid was (apparently repeatedly) telling you he wanted to hang with the gorilla in the enclosure… splash in the water… would you ignore the kid to chat on your cell phone long enough for your kid to get past four barriers? (railing, pushing under a wire fence, through bushes, and across an open space)? I keep seeing reports of mom on the cell… nothing definitive–assuming that is true for the moment as it seems likely, given the area had been safety-approved for 38 years and had seen umpteen millions of visitors, including tons of precocious 4 year-olds.

        Hindsight is 20/20, but it seems to me I’d be on high alert. Might be nice to pay attention to the rules plainly given to everyone… except 4-year-olds are notorious for obliviousness. So what we need are zoo-goers that aren’t oblivious, or are on leashes… or 10-foot plexiglass perimeters for everything a precocious sprog could possibly subvert?

        Frankly, I’d be in favor of electrifying the wire fence, to keep said sprogs out. You can bet the zoo will be trying something shortly.

        • John Taylor
          Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

          You don’t seem to be a big fan of children.

          • Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

            Certainly not insanely-misbehaved ones.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted May 31, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

              There was once a child in my parents’ neighbourhood that would scream constantly. It must have been the most miserable child ever and when it spoke, it was in a whiny voice.

              One evening, when I was visiting & we were siting outside, I loudly immitated the child in the whiny voice. You couldn’t tell where it was coming from and silence befell the neighbourhood.

      • Posted June 1, 2016 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

        + 1

      • Ken Daniels
        Posted June 2, 2016 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

        You mean it’s never occurred to you that a place with wild animals might have the potential for danger?

        Have you never heard of the multiple stories over the years of people falling into animal enclosures in zoos?

        • Posted June 3, 2016 at 7:45 am | Permalink

          Of course I’ve heard of those. But that’s the thing, it makes me wonder how it is even physically possible to fall in. Zoos = cages, for better or worse. It’s just like walking through a city, where out of control pet dogs could be on any corner. That’s fine if they exist, but they’d better be fully fenced in. It’s not a passersby’s fault if there’s a gap in the fence and therefore an open path between human and aggressive animal.

    • Filippo
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      “That being said, the kid was overheard multiple times saying he wanted to get in the moat.”

      I wonder if telling him crocodiles were in the moat would have made the difference. (Or broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, onions,etc.) I also wonder by what age he will look both ways before crossing the road, or not feel entitled to touch everything he sees.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

        That kid needs the kinds of adults around him I had. My dad’s friend told me that little girls were put into these big containers on his property (I think they were for storing oil) and then asked me if I wanted to come over and see the little girls. I had nightmares for months, years even. I think my amygdala grew two sizes that day!

  10. Petrushka
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    With hindsight, the enclosure should not have been accessible to a child.

    I have a one year old grandchild visiting next week, and I have been busy moving everything out of reach, and covering electrical outlets.

    Seems a zoo could do this.

    • Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Agree completely with Jerry, and your addition.

      If anything the zoo is to blame for not securing the enclosure in such a way that children cannot get inside. If zoos are meant for families with kids, they have to be built for that purpose. The argument can be made that free roaming kids can also get into danger in the city, and we don’t fence off the traffic, either, but the difference there is that this danger is (relatively) apparent, whereas some bushes and a fence don’t look like danger for a smaller child — it’s unusual enough, and it’s a place where thousands of families pass through.

  11. Randall Schenck
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Lets see…what endangers species more than anything else? Oh yea, humans.

  12. rickflick
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if there is a very fast acting dart juice that could immobilize the Gorilla within a few seconds. that way both lives could be saved. Such a drug might have to be riskier for the Gorilla than a slow tranquilizer, but this was an emergency.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      The risks are several. A dart gun requires closer range. That alone could spark a reaction from the gorilla that would endanger the child. Too little a dose and the effects would be too slow. Too much would be fatal. You got only seconds to choose and no do-overs.

      • rickflick
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        Good points. I was just hoping for a happier potential outcome. Guess not, huh?

    • Jeff Lewis
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, talking this over with my co-workers, we wondered whether they could make a gorilla sized tazer. But given this situation, even if such a device existed, a gun was probably still the best course of action.

    • Posted May 31, 2016 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      Another issue to consider w.r.t. immobilization is referred pain. My understanding is that a gorilla could identify the child as the source of its pain and retaliate.

  13. Moose Williams
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    As Peter Singer argues, non-human animals with self-awareness shouldn’t be discriminated against versus humans with equal self-awareness simply because one is not human. I would argue the gorilla is at least as self-aware as the average four-year-old boy. So you’re killing one animal to protect a human animal with equal-or-lesser self-awareness when the former only has the POSSIBILITY of killing or harming the latter. It’s speciesism at its worst!

    • Stephen
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Peter Singer is full of shit. And fuck all the assholes posting on this thread who suggest the life of a gorilla is more important than the life of a human child.

      • loren russell
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

        Stephen — the posters above who made such comments explained their reasoning. That’s typical for this website, even where there are pretty wide differences of opinion.
        You’re giving us
        “s**t” and “a******s” in response.

        Want to slow down and explain why your belief is self-evident??

      • Posted May 31, 2016 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

        Ok, Stephen, you apologize or I’ll ban you. It’s a roolz violation to speak like this here. I’m waiting.

        • Stephen
          Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink

          Ok do I apologize for the language. I was angry.

          But I’m still amazed that anyone would think the safety of the child should not have been the primary consideration here.

          • Posted June 1, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

            Okay, that is a notapology–you are justifying your actions. I suggest you go to other websites to post, as real apologies aren’t like this one.

        • Stephen
          Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:32 am | Permalink

          I’m using another email address to access here in the hopes I can get through since I seem to have been banned from the site because of my language.

          I do apologize to everyone for my language. Totally inappropriate. I was angry when I posted. No excuse.

          Sorry I didn’t immediately respond to your request for an apology but I usually only access the site once a day.

          If it’s possible to appeal a ban I would appreciate the lock on the -poosky- address be released.

          • Posted June 1, 2016 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

            You’re going to be moderated for a long time, and all comments will need to be approved by me. One more uncivil comment like the one you made and you’ll be gone for good.

            And read the Roolz, please.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

        So when there are two Gorillas left in the world and 8 billion people and an effort to save the last ape ‘may’ harm the 8 billionth + 1 kid, do you still say the same thing?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

          Then, I’d say gorillas are already extinct, notwithstanding a pair of relicts.

          • Michael Waterhouse
            Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

            I suppose my example didn’t make the point as well as I thought, as you found a flaw.
            But, the point was there.

            Another point is that animals, some animals at least should be valued for what they are, in and of themselves.

            Not whether they may go extinct and disturb peoples mentality.

        • Posted June 1, 2016 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

          If there are so dangerously few gorillas left in the world, it is logic-defying that they are kept far from their natural habitat, in stressful conditions, being shown to the general public for pennies.

          • Michael Waterhouse
            Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

            Doesn’t there natural habitat expose them to poachers?

            • Posted June 2, 2016 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

              It does. I wouldn’t even call all of them poachers – I suppose that gorillas are most threatened by ordinary people seeking a piece of land to subsist; the usual situation of two populations of different species trying to occupy the same niche. It is very difficult to give the gorillas a true future. But I think no species can have a long-term future in captivity.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted June 1, 2016 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

            Not necessarily. Some species may be safer in zoos – depending on how endangered their natural habitat is. And on the zoo, of course.

            (Not saying this necessarily applies to gorillas).


            • Posted June 2, 2016 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

              But this is just an emergency, short-term solution. And I shiver when I think of it applied to a species with well-developed brain. Imagine humanity reduced to 800 individuals, all kept in prison cells, adult males in solitary confinement because – surprise, surprise! – they are aggressive.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted June 2, 2016 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

                Obviously their natural habitat is better, if it is still safe.

  14. Posted May 31, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    I see parents all the time that seem completely oblivious to the fates of their children. I’ve got 4 kids, and they always tend to fly in different directions. I would have been on high alert if I noticed the enclosure was that easy to get into and probably would have had an aneurism trying to keep them all in my consciousness. I don’t know if it’s some sort of “guardian angel” or “God won’t let bad things happen to us!” mentality but I would have a fit letting a four year old walk freely in the crowd of people let alone in an area where they could climb into a cage with a Gorilla.

    I don’t know if the mother should be fined for negligence, but she (and her husband) should be ashamed that they nearly lost a child.

    This couldn’t have been an easy decision for the Zoo keepers to make. I imagine most of them do this work for a love of the animals more than anything. People crying that they should have used tranquilizers simply aren’t putting themselves in the handler’s shoes, and don’t know anything about tranquilizers. Too many people think they understand reality because they saw it on TV. There are no good decisions in a bad situation, and, unfortunately, we take care of our own.

    There should be no way that any unauthorized personnel can get into the enclosure without some herculean efforts. A 4 year old shouldn’t be able to monkey its way into a gorilla cage by squeezing through a couple bars and some brush. The boundary ought to be plexiglass or some sort of mesh at about 4.5 feet with plexiglass viewing ports for kids to see without lifting them over the bars. This not only keeps wandering children safe, but, apparently now, Gorillas because letting the child get mauled just isn’t going to happen.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      A 4 year old shouldn’t be able to monkey its way into a gorilla cage

      Very apt choice of phrase.
      No one has used the herding cats metaphor so far. And having had to herd my sisters’ gaggles on occasion, I’d prefer the cats.
      In the wider view, restraining access to anywhere with PHOs (Potentially Hazardous Occurrences) to parties with 1:1 “responsible:irresponsible” ratio maximum (in UK law, w.r.t. children, the dividing age is 14) … no, that won’t work unless you handcuff the “responsible” person to their designated “irresponsible” charge.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

        The handcuff idea works. Or, keeping all children < 10 years old on a leash. Leashes could be hired from the zoo on entry. Any kid seen unleashed to be immediately evicted.

        We do it to dogs, after all.


        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

          You are all probably not surprised to learn that o had a harness and leash as a child because my parents couldn’t catch me when I decided to take off – usually running toward a giant dog to pat.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

            So, even at that age, the wildlife needed protecting from you? [vbeg]

            I am about to launch myself upon Europe with wife, daughter and 8-year-old granddaughter. I hope Europe survives the experience. I’m not sure about the rest of us.


            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

              No I was allowed to walk along in nature but in crowds and other city places I had a harness.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted June 1, 2016 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

                So it was just civilisation that needed protection from you. (I’m still relishing the mental image of Diana-on-a-leash 😉


              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted June 2, 2016 at 9:26 am | Permalink

                I’d like to think it was civilization that required protecting but it was myself from myself. I ran up to big dogs all the time to hug them or randomly opened doors.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted June 2, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

                Somehow that doesn’t surprise me 😉


        • Posted June 1, 2016 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

          I am a speciest (or is it speciesist?). Dogs and gorillas aren’t children.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

            So what? Let the little sods run all over the place in the country and get lost in the woods if they like. They can only damage themselves.

            But *don’t* let them endanger other creatures.

            The kids should be kept under control in a zoo for exactly the same reason a rottweiler in a kindergarten should. Leashes would work in both cases 😉


            • Linn
              Posted June 2, 2016 at 4:40 am | Permalink

              I agree with not letting your kids endanger others. But don’t you think parents have any responsibility for their kids safety? Since you mention getting lost in the woods, do you think it’s fine for parents to continue the tradition of putting daughters out in the woods to be killed?

              I just dislike the implication that parents own their kids and can treat them however they like. I think parents have no right to abuse or kill their kids just because they share genes with them. We arrest parents that refuse to give their kids food f.ex.
              If this isn’t what you implied, then I’m sorry. I just see too many people that think kids are their property to treat as they wish.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted June 2, 2016 at 4:49 am | Permalink

                Agreed parents shouldn’t abuse their kids. However I think a greater problem is the current trend of over-protective parents to wrap them in cotton wool – not only by parents, but by paranoid ‘authorities’ who feel compelled to try and remove every hazard, real or imaginary. There was an article someone linked to from this or a recent thread about the dearth of any interesting places for kids to play any more.


    • Charles McCullough
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      I agree that patrons should never be able to “find” a way into any zoo exhibit (except petting zoo.) However, I firmly believe that Ms. Gregg should be punished to the fullest extent of the law for negligence. As a public employee, I have witnessed too many episodes of unsupervised /out of control children in libraries, parks, schools, and stores where they were doing damage or endangering themselves/others. I believe there is a general problem with parents accepting responsibility for the behavior of children in public places. Children will “act out” of course, but a message needs to be sent from an incident of this magnitude.

      • Jeff Lewis
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

        Not to pick on your comment specifically, but it’s funny how wildly I see people’s views vary on the proper supervision levels for children. On the one hand, you have the older generations fondly reminiscing about the good old days when they were kids and were allowed to run around their neighborhoods unsupervised for hours. Then you have the other extreme of helicopter parents who think kids should be supervised constantly and not have any independence. I know most people fall somewhere in the middle, but these types of situations tend to bring out the helicopter parents much more so than the good old dayers.

        (And I know it’s getting a little off-topic from the original post, and I apologize to PCC for that, but here’s an interesting related article on a playground that intentionally has some risky elements to foster development: )

        • somer
          Posted June 1, 2016 at 2:45 am | Permalink

          Isnt it more an issue of having sufficient respect to do as they are told in a genuinely dangerous situation?

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted June 1, 2016 at 3:57 am | Permalink

            I think the operative word is ‘genuinely’. Can’t (and shouldn’t try to) protect them from every conceivable hazard that paranoia can imagine.


        • Posted June 1, 2016 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

          I agree. Modern societies are becoming more and more kids-unfriendly, while superhuman skills are demanded from parents to control their children. I recently read a serious proposal to ban families with young children from flying, because the author felt more comfortable in child-free planes.

          • Filippo
            Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

            As regards society becoming more unfriendly to children, I note that at a local mall, posted signs clearly state that children 17 and under on premises past a certain hour must be accompanied by a parent. There was a time when malls did not make that requirement, as there was no need to.

            (A couple of years ago I saw a foursome of noble adolescent male primate children walking around. By and by one of them came up to me and asked me if I knew where he could “get some pornography,” further elaborating on the matter and “blessing” me by saying, “I need to **** off.” Apparently it is “cool” among a certain segment of the younger set to go around making egregiously offensive remarks. But he didn’t phase me – I was in the Navy. As he slouched off, holding up his baggy pants, I loudly told him, for all within earshot to hear, that his grandmother would be proud of him.)

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

            “I recently read a serious proposal to ban families with young children from flying, because the author felt more comfortable in child-free planes.”

            I’d sign that petition!

            Let me see, strapped into a seat for 12 hours alongside a yelling, screaming, whining, kicking, tantrum-throwing disease-carrying brat belonging to someone else – what’s the downside?

            Actually, I’m about to fly to Europe with an 8-year-old in tow. She’s pretty good and I do know her mother will keep her under control. The ones that should be banned are the kids with parents who never even try to control their kids in the belief that “they’re only kids” and therefore everyone else should just put up with it.


    • SA Gould
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      “There should be no way that any unauthorized personnel can get into the enclosure without some herculean efforts.”

      Kid wasn’t strong, he was agile. Maybe zoo needs a different focus group to test for safety.

    • Linn
      Posted June 2, 2016 at 4:51 am | Permalink

      I’m still confused as to what zoo has so bad enclosures that anyone can get in them. I’ve been to several zoos in Europe and all of them had (when it came to enclosures with the strongest animals) thick glass and concrete walls that were twice as tall as a normal adult. There were also only a few places where you could actually see the animals and often you would walk away from an enclosure without seeing a single animal (because they were having fun somewhere away from prying eyes). Granted, I’ve only chosen to visit the best zoos out there, so it’s a biased sample.

  15. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    The uninformed PC animal protests are annoying. If they don’t know their animals that they claim to care about…

    Professor Ceiling Cat, this one is for you:

    What I do think, however, is that we need to stop keeping great apes in captivity unless they’re kept to breed and release into the wild. I know their habitat is shrinking, but remember that these are social animals evolved to roam in the wild. They are not exhibits to gawk at.

    Remember the tiger monastery you have written about some time ago?

    Turns out the monks did have some shady business with breeding and selling tigers, showing animals (not only tigers) for money, et cetera. A wildlife conservation organization has protested to Thailand’s government and got permit to transport the tigers to conservation areas.

    Yesterday the vets tranquilized and took away 8 tigers. Today the monks had released the 137 remaining tigers on the premises… [ ]

  16. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    There was no choice than to do what happened. Humans must come first.

    I used to live in San Diego, and there are mountain lions in the area. There was a period when a mountain lion had repeatedly attacked hikers over a few days, and one was killed, if I recall. That animal was quickly shot by a marksmen. A similar argument ensued where many argued ‘the lion shoulda been tranquilized and re-located!’ But that was unrealistic and it put people who lived in the area at risk. The plan would have required a much closer approach to dart the animal, without guarantee of success. The darted animal could have hidden and not been found, etc. Meanwhile days could pass, and it could have attacked again.

    • Adam M.
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure it’s quite the same, since cougars aren’t endangered while gorillas are. I don’t mind them shooting a cougar that’s attacking people. I do mind them shooting a gorilla that might (but hasn’t yet) attacked a child that entered its enclosure.

      • darrelle
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        I think the similarity is that in both cases if the mandate is to prevent harm to humans*, which it was and which is extremely common, then waiting for an attack to happen before acting is not a valid option.

        In the case of the cougar the animal has made recent attacks, one lethal. In the case of the gorilla and the boy you have a male gorilla known to sometimes be aggressive, even lethally so, towards young gorillas and that has already handled the boy roughly enough to possibly cause serious injury. In either case if your mandate is to prevent harm to the human you would be negligent, possibly criminally so, not to disable the other animal in such a way as to minimize risk to the human. And the method most likely to succeed is shooting them dead with a fire arm. I agree it is tragic, but it is very similar to the situation with the cougar.

        * Whether or not protecting humans should supersede protecting other animals should be the default is a whole other argument that is also being discussed in this thread.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

        What darrelle said. There are no good options. One must choose the ‘least terrible’ among the choices.

  17. Adam M.
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Well, I’m on record as valuing the lives of members of endangered species more than the lives of nonendangered species, including humans. I would not have chosen to shoot the gorilla, because I value its life more than that of the child, and hoped the handlers were either trained for this or that a tranquilizer would suffice.

    • Posted May 31, 2016 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      I guess that’s a respectable position, assuming you’re willing to apply the same standard if it were your own child in the enclosure.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

        If it’s your own child, the responsible thing is to recognize that you’re incapable of being objective, and hand the decision off to someone else.

        • Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

          Good point, but I can just imagine the picture: “Help! Help! My child fell into a gorilla enclosure! Is there anybody here who is qualified to make objective moral judgments?!”

  18. Kevin
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    No answers for what happened. Prevention is easy though: engineering controls. No reasonable chance that the kid could have reached the gorilla.

    As a dad I would have jumped in to try to save my kid.

    • SA Gould
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      As a non-Mom, I probably would have tried to save kid, too. But the timing would have had to be right.

      If it had *just happened,* I would have tried to grab him before he made it completely through. If I had just *heard* the kid saying ‘Let’s play in the water’ (or whatever the exact phrase was, I would have been over there and between him and the barrier to stop further exploration, and acting as a distraction.

      I’m sure readers remember the guy in Istanbul, Turkey who *caught* a falling kid was riding on the outside of an escalator rail in a shopping mall. He didn’t yell at the kid (which might of startled him into losing his grip) but just ended up right underneath when he fell. That was perfect timing.

  19. Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  20. Posted May 31, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I grew up with this zoo. I’m very upset about the incident but I don’t know what I would have done. I’m glad I wasn’t in the position to make the choice. I don’t think it was an easy one and I cannot say what was right or wrong. Or, maybe I just don’t want to say it? I’m not sure. What I do think is that we should be using this as a means of encouraging the public to support gorilla conservation.

  21. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    A terrible situation for everyone concerned. Even the parents get some sympathy from me (herding cats, etc). Particularly terrible for the gorilla, and I wouldn’t blame the keepers if they took a booze & blow holiday to Colorado after the inquest is finished.
    Standard industrial practice is to have two barriers between “stored energy” (in this case, gorilla; otherwise, moving objects, voltages, pressures, radioactivity…) and people. So, 2 circuit breakers between you and the live line. Double block valves before you take 15000psi lines out for repair. It’s an SOP.
    From the reports, this seems to have been intended as a 3 barrier system (fence, hedges, moat) and at least one barrier failed, though I’m unclear on the details. Was the fence intact? (Kids are great at finding holes in fences.) If not, there is an inspection/maintenance issue. We’re the bushes an effective barrier – or should they be thornier with skin irritants (problematic for public interaction. But do-able. ) And finally the moat. I note that the child couldn’t climb out of the moat to “gorilla land”, but was it anticipated or observed that the gorillas could get into and out of the moat? It seems this gorilla had no concern entering the moat, suggesting it was familiar with getting out.
    I’m sure the (sorry)
    post mortem will cover these points. A repetition AT THIS LOCATION is unlikely. Sadly, my HSE Ossifer room mate is all too familiar with seeing the same incident (often a fatality) “doing the rounds” of alerts, after an (allegedly) industry-wide alert was issued about $PLACEHOLDER$ from our very own office.
    It is a racing certainty (P>95%) that whatever the ultimate causes were, and despite the accompanying reporting, Some other zoo will not recognise the same problems at their site, or have overconfidence in their responses to the issues, or have it on next year’s ToDo list, and someone else will die. (Some primate, species irrelevant. “It’s not irrelevant, it’s a hippotamus! ” to quote F&S) Anyone care to put stakes to the bet, and someone willing to hold the stakes and adjudicate?

    Obviously the distal cause of this is having in close proximity to Gorilla gorilla gorilla I had my first such encounter a couple of months back at London Zoo. In indoor and outdoor, “state of the art” enclosures, I saw …. imprisoned, frustrated and deeply unhappy prisoners. I will NEVER patronise that damnable hellhole of torment again. I’d rather stroll down city depths looking for volunteers for the starring role in a snuff movie.
    I actually accept that ZSL run a very good gorilla house. Equally, I recognise the engineering design of the prototype gas chambers at Dachau KZ as being fine pieces of chemical engineering. What they do, they do well. But it should not be done. The place for gorillas is in their native rain forests, and that is the problem that should be addressed. And if that means kids gawp at the incredible Attenborough – cuddling footage, not a damp, bored caged psychotic through 3 barriers … that’s life.

    • rickflick
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      Well stated. I will only add that even though…that’s life, life is always changing and sometimes improving.

      In time, maybe the notion of zoos will seem as remote as bear-bating is to us now.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted June 2, 2016 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

        Dog fighting is still relatively popular (if thoroughly illegal) in Britain. Bear-baiting isn’t so distant.

    • barn owl
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      I’m in South Texas, and we’ve got the thorniest, most dermatologically irritating plants anyone could want to use for effective barriers. Fire ants too. We’ll give them away for nothing.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted June 2, 2016 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

        Can they stand a Cincinnati winter (not that I’d know where Cincinnati is without checking a map … Hmmm, 500km south from Tortonto. Probably still going to get pretty cold.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

      150000 psi lines. That’s a lot.
      Are they hydraulic? What do they do?

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted June 2, 2016 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

        15k not 150k (I had to check what I’d written too ; made that sort of typo before).
        15k is a common working pressure for a regular BOP stack post-Deepwater Horizons, with 20k being a common configuration for HPHT-rated new build rigs. There are a lot of existing rigs though which are only “stacked” for 5, 8 or 10 kpsi, because retrofitting the surface pipework is a substantial investment. A 2 in ID pipe rated to 8kpsi will probably have a wall thickness of under 2 in ; go up to 15kpsi and you’re closer to a wall thickness of 5~6in. That’s a major piece of welding. The only time I saw one being done it was 2 welders times 6 shifts of 8 hours each, per weld. Obviously, you can have several welds going at once, to optimise your welding crew and critical path, but it’s still a big shipyard job. That tub was in the yard for about 8 weeks for that package of works (which included many other jobs).
        The main design criterion for what rating of tack you need is the possibility of having reservoir pressure evacuate to the level of the stack and having to contain that for weeks or months while you kill the well. Which is great if you’ve drilled the area before. OTOH, if you’re wildcatting, you have to make the best guess you can (which can take years), and still go “armed for bear”.

    • conelrad
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 3:35 am | Permalink

      Just started reading Half-Earth by Edward O. Wilson. The author suggests that humans abandon 1/2 the Earth’s surface in order to stop the destruction of biodiversity. Not sure how he plans to implement this.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted June 2, 2016 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

        Which half? The half below 2km below sea level, or the half above that level?

  22. merilee
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink


  23. chris moffatt
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Sorry about the gorilla but animals have to learn that only humans can kill humans with impunity. As for zoos? They should be for preservation or rehabilitation only, no visitors allowed – especially no children. Let the animals have some dignity.

  24. David Hammer
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I agree that its terrible to punish animals “for behaving according to their genes and environment”. But the gorilla wasn’t shot as punishment, but because it was the only way to immobilize him immediately. And since he was dragging the child like a toy, he had to be immobilized.

  25. Posted May 31, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Some informed commentary.


    • SA Gould
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      Commentary was great, thank you!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      Imagine having the strength of a silverback Gorilla? I’d be shot long ago if I did just for constantly flicking annoying people away from me. Also, for accidental door damage.

  26. Curt Nelson
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    In the movie Young Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein went directly into the monster’s cage and succeeded in calming him, at first by surprising him with a compliment (Hey good lookin’!) and then by being sympathetic, since monsters are often misunderstood.

    A similar approach on that huge male gorilla might have been successful.

    • Posted June 1, 2016 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      I think it would be irresponsible to take the chance.

    • Filippo
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      I wonder how extensively that has been field-tested.

  27. Posted May 31, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    What a tragedy. I don’t know what should have been done, but beefing up protection so it doesn’t happen again seems to be right.

    Does it make sense to even charge the mother with anything? I can’t even decide that, since I’m skeptical of punishment – I’m not sure in this case it would do anything.

    • barn owl
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      The mother of a two-year-old killed by African painted dogs at the Pittsburgh Zoo had placed him atop a railing, from which he fell into the exhibit. She wasn’t charged with anything, and seems to be more at fault than the Cincinnati mom. In fact the parents of the two-year-old sued the Zoo, and received a settlement.

      • darrelle
        Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:34 am | Permalink

        There was an incident many years ago on Cape Canaveral in which a clueless mother lifted her small child over a waist high fence and set him on the back of a sunning alligator so that she could take a picture. This was not a zoo but merely a place just off a main road known as a good spot to see wild alligators up close.

        Luckily there was a person with some wits about them who acted very quickly. According to the story, as the mother was setting the child down on the alligator this person was snatching it back off.

        Alligators can sit unmoving, still as a statue, for long periods of time while sunning but they are very fast. And something suddenly being put on its back is definitely going to get a reaction. It is pretty amazing how clueless some people can be.

        • barn owl
          Posted June 1, 2016 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

          A friend says he once witnessed a parent lifting a toddler over the fence of the emu enclosure at a zoo. He said one of the emus grabbed the kid’s baseball cap by the bill, pulled it from his head, and ran off with it. Friend said that the stupid parent didn’t seem to realize that the stunt could have ended very badly.

  28. Posted May 31, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    “Should the mother be charged with negligence? I don’t think so: she was tending three other children, including a babe in arms. Kids get away sometimes.”

    So, she chose to get into a situation that she had no control over, and caused harm with her ignorance. She is culpable. IF this was on a street, would she have been charged with negligence if the one child ran into the street because she couldn’t handle the children?

    • Posted June 1, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      No. She wouldn’t.

      If “one child ran into the street because she couldn’t handle the children” resulted in parents being “charged with negligence” there would be a lot of kids with parents in jail.

      • Posted June 1, 2016 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

        and the child was hit? who is at fault? The mother or the driver?

      • Posted June 1, 2016 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

        to my last point, who bears the fault of a child in a dangerous position? And I do find that parents should be charged if their children are in traffic. There are enough kids who are found wandering around whose parents either are, or should be, charged with at least reckless endangerment, if not outright abuse.

  29. Posted May 31, 2016 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    My initial thought when hearing about this is they should have done everything they could to avoid killing the gorrilla. If it had been an adult that climbed in that would still be my position. The problem is you can’t risk the child suffering or dying when it’s the parents fault. Which brings me to the next point.

    “Should the mother be charged with negligence? I don’t think so: she was tending three other children, including a babe in arms. Kids get away sometimes.”

    YES! Going to the zoo with 5 children, one an infant, and expecting to be able to keep them safe is by my definition negligence. I say that as an experienced parent. In addition witnesses say “The little boy himself had already been talking about wanting to [go into the enclosure] … get in the water. The mother’s like, ‘No, you’re not, no, you’re not’.”
    So his climb into the enclosure didn’t come out of the blue. She knew he wanted in, and should have been particularly vigilant.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      Some people really lack the creativity to see danger. I remember standing in a crowded room waiting to pick up a package. There was a swinging door that could crush anyone’s finger. A mother was allowing her small toddler to put her hands around that door. I kept envisioning the child having her digits crushed and finally, after the door missed her a couple times, I pulled her hand away from it. I’m not one for touching other people’s children but the thought of that poor kid getting hurt, overwhelmed me. The mother was oblivious.

      • Gayle
        Posted June 1, 2016 at 12:38 am | Permalink

        Two words: natural selection

  30. madscientist
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    I’d shoot the poor gorilla because that’s the best shot the zoo has of avoiding a lawsuit. 1 dead gorilla in exchange for all the jobs in the zoo. Of course someone could still bring a lawsuit claiming that the barriers are inadequate, but that’s not the sort of lawsuit that could shut down a zoo unless you had a dead kid on hand.

  31. Posted May 31, 2016 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    I view this as a bad situation in which shooting the gorilla was necessary, not no less tragic for that.

    There have been parents at zoos who I’d charge with negligence — ones who hold a kid over the barriers, even a kid in a stroller, for example — even if the kid wasn’t hurt.

    In this case, though, I’d just view the mother as unlucky. We really can’t keep kids as completely safe as we might like.

    Blaming the mother for her 4-year-old wandering does have the advantage that it helps the rest of us pretend nothing like this could ever happen to us.

    • Posted May 31, 2016 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

      “Blaming the mother for her 4-year-old wandering does have the advantage that it helps the rest of us pretend nothing like this could ever happen to us.”

      It never would have happened to me because I would never have been so negligent as to have taken 5 children, including a 4 year old, and one I had to carry out in public alone nevermind to a crowded zoo. When I took my 4 year old to Disney World she was always either in a stroller, holding my hand, in my arms, or on a ride with me.

      • Posted June 1, 2016 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        And why didn’t she investigate the zoo. How negligent to fail to investigate the safety of where they take their children. It would never have happened to me, I only take my children to safe zoos.

        • Posted June 1, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

          “And why didn’t she investigate the zoo. How negligent to fail to investigate the safety of where they take their children. It would never have happened to me, I only take my children to safe zoos.”

          Imagine if instead of this being the mother the children were on a field trip from a child care center. Would anyone really be defending the child care center, and arguing they weren’t negligent when one adult was responsible for 5 children, one of whom they were carrying, and at least one as young as 3?

          • Posted June 1, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

            I wanted to add I just saw a news report that identifies the women, and includes pictures. She looks to be about 300lbs minimum. Unless she’s incredible athletic for her size there’s no way she could have caught the kid even if she wasn’t carrying another. That adds to the negligence. Also ironically she’s apparently an administrator at a child care center.

            • Posted June 1, 2016 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

              If this woman had been acting in her roll as a child care provider, and this has been a field trip, no one would be defending her if these were other people’s children. It’s almost as though people are saying it’s OK to endanger children if they’re your own.

              • Posted June 1, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

                When I was a scout leader, and a parent of scouts, I heard of one other leader who let one of the scouts in his care on a hike in the mountains (maybe the Pennines) go behind some boulders to have a pee … but the scout ended up falling down a hidden slope and injuring himself. The scout leader was found negligent (not criminally), and officially reprimanded. But of course the scout was his own son, and if the accident had happened on a private outing, he would likely have had very little criticism.

                We do expect more of those charged with a duty of care.


              • Posted June 1, 2016 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

                Because many people without the skills of a child care provider (such as me) nevertheless want to reproduce.

              • Posted June 1, 2016 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

                “Because many people without the skills of a child care provider (such as me) nevertheless want to reproduce.”

                Are you saying unfortunately they desire to reproduce, or that their desire to reproduce without proper skills excuses their negligence, and trumps the value of Harambe’s life?

              • Posted June 1, 2016 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

                The latter.

              • Posted June 1, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

                This is why the school of my children no longer organizes trips.

              • Posted June 1, 2016 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

                “This is why the school of my children no longer organizes trips.”

                And why a parent shouldn’t take 5 children they can’t control out in public.
                If this kid had broken a neighbors window with a baseball no one would be arguing that the parents shouldn’t be held responsible for the damage. How are they any less responsible for the death of Harambe?

              • Posted June 2, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

                When you hold someone responsible for a broken window, they pay for a new one. However, you can sue and punish this family until you make their life hell, and this will not produce a single gorilla cell. And I do not think it would teach anyone anything. As you see, the most widespread reaction is to “other” the culprits so that to think that without that irresponsible mother, all would be well with the world.

              • Posted June 2, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

                “And I do not think it would teach anyone anything.”

                I disagree, by your reasoning no one should ever be punished for anything if it won’t act as a deterrent. There has already been a nationwide discussion about parental responsibility. Discussion about the use of strollers, or leashes to control your children. A discussion that would continue if the parent was charged, and found criminally negligent in the death of Harambe.

              • Posted June 2, 2016 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

                I am against leashes for children.

              • Posted June 2, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

                “I am against leashes for children.”

                I am as well unless you insist on single handedly trying to take 5 children out in public, and clearly can’t control them.

              • SA Gould
                Posted June 2, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

                My brother was on a leash occasionally when he was out in such a public place. It was a safety measure. He did not wear it *all the time.*

              • Posted June 2, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

                It takes a village to control a child. Our authorities periodically put posters showing a child with rollers and another one with a ball, and an inscription, “Children have no brakes”. This is to remind drivers than in a residential area, it is their obligation to drive slow enough.
                Children used to be regarded as the future of humanity and of each nation. Now, the prevailing them seems to be of a nuisance of which we have too many. Having children is a personal lifestyle choice, and individuals making it should cope with parenting tasks perfectly and not inconvenience anyone else.

              • Posted June 2, 2016 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

                “Now, the prevailing them seems to be of a nuisance of which we have too many. Having children is a personal lifestyle choice, and individuals making it should cope with parenting tasks perfectly and not inconvenience anyone else.”

                A step in the right direction.

              • Posted June 2, 2016 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

                You may have heard how Ann Coulter, in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, said that Arabs shouldn’t be allowed on planes and, when asked how they would travel, replied, “They can use flying carpets”. Many people have in their subconscious some similar idea about families with children. We are often told how, to save the planet, we should use more public transportation. Which sounds like an excellent idea until you actually try it. Other passengers think that your children must be “well-behaved”, that is, like miniature adults, and if they behave like the children they are, they are “spoiled brats” or even “bratty monsters”. They want you to force your children to behave with the discipline and manners of adults, presumably by beating them into full submission. An author named Dodson,who advised parents to be firm in defense of their children, pointed out that parenting is about bringing up healthy and happy human beings, rather than about appeasing strangers.

              • Posted June 2, 2016 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

                “An author named Dodson,who advised parents to be firm in defense of their children, pointed out that parenting is about bringing up healthy and happy human beings, rather than about appeasing strangers.”

                You might have a point if by appeasing you meant keeping them quiet because they are annoying people, but in a society strangers have the right to demand you not endanger children’s lives through negligence. And if you’re talking about James Dodson, he was also an evangelical Christian who wrote a book called Dare to Discipline, where he advocated spanking children. I don’t know enough to say for sure, but his argument against appeasing strangers may have had to do with their arguing against people beating their children.

              • Posted June 3, 2016 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

                His name was fitzhugh Dodson. Also a Christian; did not recommend spanking as punishment but wrote that most normal parents do it occasionally and that, according to his opinion, it was not harmful (though not too useful, either).
                The remark against appeasing strangers was definitely not against strangers defending a spanked child. Here is what he wrote in his book “How to parent” (not a true quote but a “back translation” from the Bulgarian translation):

                “What to do when you child is in a hysterical crisis? You need to convince him that his anger, even if unavoidable, will not bring him anywhere. How to do this? Just let the kid cope with his rage… You can stay silent and wait the crisis to pass by itself. Or you can prefer to say, “I know you are angry, but go to your room until you have calmed. Then I’ll show you something nice. Or you can say in a stern voice: “Go to your room at once!” You must find and use the method that suits you best and use it. Above all, spare the child’s dignity… Let’s say a word about the hysteric crises in front of friends or relatives or in the mall. Use the same anti-crisis techniques, but know that you have a new adversary who can intervene and interfere with the solution, and this is the audience. A monster pops up, (the thought): What will people think? If they do not know child psychology, they will think that you are doing it wrong, that you must just end the crisis by giving your child a nice spanking. So what? Why are you bringing up a child – to help him grow into a healthy and happy being, or to appease strangers?”
                (The last word may also be “neighbors”.)

              • Posted June 2, 2016 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

                I might have confused Dodson with Dobson unless you did. Dobson was an author who wrote extensively about raising children.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted June 1, 2016 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

                “It’s almost as though people are saying it’s OK to endanger children if they’re your own.”

                ‘course it is! Just not acceptable to endanger third parties – like the gorilla.


                (Your ‘endanger’ is my ‘adventure’)

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted June 2, 2016 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

                “Now, the prevailing them seems to be of a nuisance of which we have too many. Having children is a personal lifestyle choice, and individuals making it should cope with parenting tasks perfectly and not inconvenience anyone else.”

                Damn right. The world does not need *more* humans.


    • Posted June 1, 2016 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      “Blaming the mother for her 4-year-old wandering does have the advantage that it helps the rest of us pretend nothing like this could ever happen to us.”

      Very true!

    • Filippo
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      “Blaming the mother for her 4-year-old wandering does have the advantage that it helps the rest of us pretend nothing like this could ever happen to us.”

      I trust that any parent not living in a cave will take notice and learn from the incident, with a hope that genetic inheritance and Fortune will smile and that they will not be too much “blessed” with an obstreperous, willful, oppositionally-defiant child.

  32. Henry Fitzgerald
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    It seems I’m wildly out of step with general thought, but I think shooting the gorilla was wrong.

    Considerations forcing me in this line of thought: it was [i]certain[/i] that shooting the gorilla would kill the gorilla, but not certain that shooting the gorilla would save the child; nor was it [i]certain[/i] that not shooting the gorilla would doom the child. There are only 880 gorillas left, or one for every eight million humans. And it seems to me that protecting their resident animals should be the zoo’s primary objective, with protecting the humans who wander in a secondary one. As far as I’m concerned, as soon as I voluntarily place myself near gorillas I’m running a risk and it’s [i]my[/i] lookout if I end up head to head with an enormous ape. I don’t see how I can reasonably expect the zoo to shoot the ape, no matter what, merely to protect [i]me[/i].

    If it comes to that, I wouldn’t be happy for the zoo to have snipers trained on the humans, ready to shoot at a moment’s notice if they suspected an animal was in danger. Why should I be fine with the reverse?

    I know all this makes me [i]sound[/i] blasé about the fate of the boy; but then, to me, everyone else [i]sounds[/i] blasé about the fate of the gorilla.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

      You’re hardly the only one thinking along those lines; see my comment at #6 for instance.

      Unfortunately the reality is that any administrator deciding to let the gorilla have his way with the boy would be committing career suicide and dropping the zoo into a legal quagmire from which it might not recover. In that sense they really had no other option than to do what they did, even granting that the gorilla’s death represents a greater loss to the world than the boy’s would have.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

        And let’s think this through to the conclusion. Who could stand by and watch this kid be fling around and killed? It would be a horrendous site and a nasty way to go.

        • Henry Fitzgerald
          Posted May 31, 2016 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

          I can understand the lawsuit objection, although if it were me I’d like to think my relatives wouldn’t be so tacky as to sue afterwards.

          But I don’t attach much weight to the consideration you raise. It’s unpleasant to watch a gorilla getting shot, too, and unpleasant being the one to pull the trigger. So there are good grounds to be compassionate and forgiving towards the poor sod who had to make the decision, one way or another, whatever decision they made, right or wrong. But I can still remark, out of earshot on this board, that I think the decision to shoot was the wrong one.

          Also, many people, me among them, find it much more distressing to watch a (hairy, non-human) animal get killed, than a human (at least, I think I do; I don’t have enough real-life experience to be sure) – but I wouldn’t want this consideration to be included in the zookeepers’ moral considerations, either; I wouldn’t want them to shoot the boy rather than the gorilla merely because this would cause less distress to the spectators.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

            The gorilla death, I’m assuming, would be quick and painless if the shooters shot accurately. The child’s death would be painful and prolonged.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

              Not if the marksman was a good shot.


              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

                Bah dum dah!

            • Henry Fitzgerald
              Posted June 1, 2016 at 2:16 am | Permalink

              Okay, so that is a relevant consideration – provided we’re talking about the child’s suffering itself, and not the spectator’s discomfort at witnessing it, which I still think is beside the point.

              But on balance I’m still for saving the gorilla.

    • barn owl
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

      This kind of direct, life-for-a-life choice, gorilla vs. human child, is exceedingly rare. Far more common and harmful are the indirect consequences of the choices that most of us in the developed world, especially in the US, make every day, which individually and collectively take the lives of wild animals through habitat destruction, climate change, etc. Everyday choices about what to eat and drink, what to use on the lawn or garden, how much to drive, whether to fly, or whether to turn on the A/C, and long-term choices about where to live, what kind of dwelling and what to stuff in it, whether to have kids, and what kind of work to do. The life-for-a-life choice is raw and obvious, yet relatively easy to comprehend and debate, whereas the consequences of our lifestyle choices for the natural world can be difficult to grasp on an individual level (and people are usually reluctant to discuss them).

    • Linn
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 2:52 am | Permalink

      I think this was a difficult choice because I think great apes should be considered so close to humans that they should have far more rights than they do now.

      I don’t really like the whole endangered species argument though. If were going to think like that, why care about people at all?
      There are many posts on this site about sex abuse of kids, FGM, people being stoned to death in Muslim countries etc. Why should we care about such things? Shouldn’t we just be happy about it since humans aren’t an endangered species?
      Why are we often encouraged to give money to “doctor’s without borders” on this site? Arent there too many people already? I say we care about humans because we’re humans, just like a lion cares more or himself and his lionesses than the antelope he rips apart.

      I certainly don’t see how you can say that the death of the child would be less distressing to the spectators than the death of a gorilla. Do you have kids yourself? Most of us can’t stand the thought of watching a child get harmed. That’s the reason why people are so upset about pedophiles abusing kids f.ex.

      Would you expect a gorilla to feel worse at the death of a human than its own offspring?
      Do you always feel worse about the death of an animal than a human? Do you think the death of ants are worse than hearing about stoning of people by IS? That sounds really strange to me. What about your own family? Would you sacrifice your human family to save an animal?

      Like I said, this was a difficult one, but your reasoning below was strange.

      • darrelle
        Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:48 am | Permalink

        If the gorilla had instead been a human, an enormously strong one who was known to have behavioral issues that could result in him killing the child in a sudden fit of rage or fear, and who had already severely injured the boy, the decision to shoot probably would have been the same.

      • Posted June 1, 2016 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

        I think the same. I’d wish to read some work on the psychology of caring more about non-human animals than about fellow humans.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

          There are billions of people, most of whom I don’t know. Thousands of them are dying all the time. Why should I care about them? And how could I? 11Some of them belong to ISIS and I certainly don’t care about them other than saying ‘good riddance!’

          I don’t feel obligated to care about humans at random. If an individual person comes to my attention, then I may care. I care about fairness and justice. This doesn’t mean I should automatically value humans over e.g. gorillas. If the kid was a poacher, about to shoot a gorilla in Africa, would I be wrong to shoot him? I don’t think so.


          • Linn
            Posted June 2, 2016 at 3:08 am | Permalink

            But then the poacher would be the agressor. That shows that humans are actually capable of being fair since we do get rid of poachers. But the child in this instance was not an aggressor, the gorilla was. If a human had started dragging around a young gorilla and tried to kill it, people would have seen the human as an aggressor that should be killed or jailed. Why shouldn’t the gorilla then be treated the same way?

            And of course you can’t care about everyone. I was answering someone that cared more about animals than people, not someone not giving a damn either way.
            I hope he will answer my post because I’m curious as to whether he truly doesn’t separate between animals at all.

            The reason most of us separate between humans and other animals is the same reason why most animal activist would save a gorilla over an equally endangered salamander. If that salamander belonged to a species with less individuals than gorillas, would you truly save the salamander? I’m impressed if thats the case.

            Then there’s also the case that most of us have maternal instincts that lead us to feel for a human child, which is exactly the reason for why were so upset about religious abuse of kids, FGM etc.
            If we should only look at a species population with no more care for humans over non humans, then that means we shouldn’t care about human suffering at all since we are already overpopulated. There are some people that take that stance, but they never seem to include themselves. It’s always all the other people that should die, never them. It would be amusing if it wasn’t so tragic.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted June 2, 2016 at 3:30 am | Permalink

              I agree with your first paragraph.

              I was dissenting with the implication that we should automatically care about humans – any humans, anywhere – more than non-humans. It depends on the circumstances.

              The world would certainly benefit from a vast reduction in the number of humans in it, but I think that should be achieved by birth control rather than nukes.


              • Linn
                Posted June 2, 2016 at 4:35 am | Permalink

                I am in agreement with you about that. I think the reason I reacted so strongly was in response to Fitzgerald saying he would always feel worse about animals getting killed than humans. I know about a few people like that and many of them have absolutely no regard for human life. We had a mass murderer over here in norway (Anders Behring Breivik) that stated he felt true sorrow over a mouse he’d run over once, he didn’t feel as much sorrow over all the youths he killed. People like that freaks me out.

                We all have borders and value some higher than others. You mentioned earlier that you have a daughter. I’m assuming you would attempt to defend her against a cougar attack for instance because of the value you place on her as your offspring. I don’t think caring more about your child is hypocritical or speceist. If so, then other animals are just as guilty of it as we are since they also protect their own above other animals that they see as prey or enemies.

                Are you vegan by the way? I can respect vegans even though I disagree with them. They’re more consistent in their belief that all animals are equal (but they would only be completely consistent if they also made sure to protect parasites, and insects they step on in their path).
                The ones that claim animals are equal but still eat meat only from other animals and never from the kids in the neighbourhood, are actually inconsistent whether they know it or not.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted June 2, 2016 at 8:24 pm | Permalink


                I agree that ‘always prefer animals over humans’ sounds pretty egregious. ‘Sometimes I like animals better’ is understandable, some humans can be pretty repulsive.

                I would, however disagree that I should automatically prefer some random human (who I don’t know) over an animal. Much would depend on the circumstances.

                When it comes to people I do know, and relations of mine, of course that changes the equation.

                Am I vegan? No. Though I’m fussy about what I eat, but that’s personal prejudice, not ethics. I don’t like eating anything identifiable as an organ. I actually prefer fish’n’chips or meat pies to steak. I *could* be a vegan without too much effort. If I had to kill my own food I certainly would be. (On the other hand if I had to grow my own produce I’d probably end up killing something).


          • Posted June 2, 2016 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

            I didn’t mean that others “should” or are “obligated” to have my opinion – just that I wonder how and why they do not. It just seems natural to me to care more about members of one’s own species than about those of another one.
            I admit I am surprised to read this opinion of yours, because in other discussions, you have advocated strongly for humans in general, for “out-groups”, including those whose culture puts them at an elevated risk of catching ISIS.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted June 2, 2016 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

              I tend to side with the underdog. Sometimes that’s humans, sometimes it’s animals.

              I will generalise about groups (such as ‘kill all ISIS’) while recognising that there are always individual exceptions e.g. doubtless some in ISIS have been forced into it by threat – they don’t deserve to be killed. But if it’s a choice between killing them and letting them – under duress – kill someone else, then – sorry.


              • Linn
                Posted June 3, 2016 at 8:37 am | Permalink

                I was unable to reply to your comment below mine so I will reply here instead.
                I think we mostly agree now.

                I’ll just end the discussion by saying that the notion of “sometimes liking animals better than disgusting people” is also a strange one. Which animals? There are a multitude of species and a multitude of animal behaviours, some of which we would certainly find terrifying.

                Is the pig raping another pig more likable( I’ve seen pigs rape each other and I can testify that the female pig was not enjoying the experience)? Is the wasp putting eggs in spiders and watching the spider being eaten alive more likable? Is an ape raping or killing another ape more likable? I’m also wondering whether we should prevent members of endangered species from killing their own.
                If one young eagle belonging to an endangered species tries to kick its sibling out of the nest, should we stop it? Why is the eagle killing someone fine, while a human doing the same not fine?

                I’m not really arguing against you specifically here, just against those that think nature can do no wrong, but all human activity is bad. I think the best is for us to try and minimise our impact as best as we can, and neither cause or prevent extinction of species (there are plenty of examples of extinction events without human cause and I don’t think we should intervene in such cases, nor should we resurrect the mammoth for instance).

                I think someone has to be extremely ignorant of biology and nature to believe that nature is always good while people are always bad.

                That’s the last I have to say on the subject.🙂

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted June 3, 2016 at 9:14 am | Permalink

                “Sometimes liking animals more than people” is not, normally, taken to include insects in the definition of ‘animals’, nor, obviously, does it include every animal, including ones behaving badly. ‘Sometimes’ does not mean ‘always’.

                (In fact I’ve said before, contemplating parasitic wasps, that if they could all be made extinct they would be no loss. So don’t use them to strawman me).


  33. Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    The fault lies at the door of the zoo. They made two breaches of trust: not adequately protecting the animals and their paying guests from each other. Any barrier that is that easy to breach by a little kid is no barrier at all (clueless kid, clueless parent, maybe even some clueless copycats). I daresay they are acutely feeling the loss of their beloved gorilla, and that might be punishment enough. But they will no doubt have to rethink some things. Do these large beasts belong in a zoo?! This is reckless endangerment of man and beast.

  34. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    “God protected my child”

    Why didn’t He protect the bloody gorilla?


    • SA Gould
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

      When I was 6yrs old, my mother came home to find me riding a full size adult bike merrily in traffic. The babysitter told her “Jesus protects the little children.” She told the babysitter “I’m paying you, not Jesus.”

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

        I remember as a kid being at the baby sitter’s house. One of her boys drove a bike out in traffic and we heard a car squeal its brakes. Man did that kid get his butt smacked. It was the 70s so this reaction was normal. Oh have times changed. Not that I’m advocation slapping children but it does so contrast the “mommy loves you” statement.

        • Posted June 1, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

          Too bad the Internet wasn’t around so people could publicly shame that parent, write all about how irresponsible that parent was, how it “would never have happened to my child”, ad nauseum.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted June 1, 2016 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

            Back then everyone would be encouraging the parent to punish their child. I found that was how it was with shaming. Also my mother was shamed repeatedly for only having one child (she had multiple miscarriages) and then for having one child late (at 24). I’m that respect, things are the same. I regularly get told how I couldn’t understand something because I don’t have children and I’m constantly made to feel that I’m a monster for not being a mother.

            I don’t know who the people are who never receive criticism and shaming but I’d love to meet them.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted June 1, 2016 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

              You have my sympathy.

              I used to get queries (not in a nasty way) from some of my wife’s numerous family (my daughter came with the wife). It was well-meant but still irritating.

              I imagine it was much more annoying for you.

              Cristina Rad did a good rant on that sort of thing on Youboob a couple of years ago:


              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted June 1, 2016 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

                Good video!

        • Filippo
          Posted June 1, 2016 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

          How about those adults crossing busy parking lot thoroughfares without making the least effort to look to see if a car is approaching? The sense of entitlement (in the U.S. the sense of “Amuricun Exceptionalism”) appears to kick in early in childhood, eh?

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

            Or those adults (sometimes with children) who walk down the middle of a parking lot while those in cars slowly putter behind, hoping they will move off to the side.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

              Don’t get me started…

              (And, when I walk through a parking lot, I always try to keep clear of the traffic lanes)


            • Merilee
              Posted June 3, 2016 at 8:57 am | Permalink

              Walking down the middle of the parking lot while texting…or crossing street while doing the same…

      • Filippo
        Posted June 1, 2016 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        To congenially inquire, at what age did you determine that riding thusly was not a good strategy? 😉

        Would your mother have accepted the babysitter man-handling you, if necessary after repeated requests/directives, so as to restrain you from playing/getting killed in traffic? Seems any parent would physically restrain a child in such circumstances. Not a few teenagers – minors – babysit. Seems on principle not a good idea to impose on a minor an (legally unenforceable?)in loco parentis legal responsibility (and implied contract?) for the welfare of another human being.

        • SA Gould
          Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

          Bike riding situation was exacerbated as my rarely seen father (mother divorced after I was born) gave me a full size adult bikes, where all I could do is stand on the pedals, not sit on the seat. (Dad loved making the occasional grand gesture.)

          Mom was working and going to school to become a teacher and a single mother, as she found out she married a philanderer. Was always told to do anything the babysitter told me to do. Babysitter didn’t have any rules.

          As to learning to rid a bike safely, that came when I was nine. A very nice motorist noticed my driving habits and went out of her way to confront me and say “You don’t understand… drivers *can’t always see you.*”

          Much credit to people who look out for other people’s children

          • Filippo
            Posted June 1, 2016 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

            “Much credit to people who look out for other people’s children.”

            Concur. In small towns of yesteryear most every mother supported other mothers in, so to speak, an “intelligence network,” observing and reporting children’s behavior/activities. Couldn’t git by with nuthin.’

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

      God hates most animals, including humans because he’s a sociopath. Incidents like this amuse God.

  35. Posted June 1, 2016 at 1:46 am | Permalink

    Why in hell couldn’t they have used a Taser?

  36. somer
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    Whilst I think the incident was very sad (for the gorilla) – nature running its course often involves conflict of interests – In common sense survival of our species we have to favour our own in such a life a death matter. The gorilla was behaving in an aggressive manner (unlike the behaviour of one in another incident where child and gorilla were unharmed). A dart would not do because it takes too long as Jerry said – really there was no option but to shoot the gorilla. As for the comments by the father … no accounting for beliefs!

  37. Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Quite right. If you’re going to give a 400 lb gorilla the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the life of your child, you may need to re-evaluate your parenting suitability.

  38. somer
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Re the father’s religious response to the incident. More religious inanity to do with animals

    The Thai tiger temple’s long history of controversy
    Thai authorities have finally raided the temple and removed the tigers in the teeth of opposition in a highly organised operation. They found 40 dead tiger cubs in the freezer

  39. Claudia Baker
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    As if this whole situation isn’t upsetting enough, the mother’s statement about god “saving her child” really takes the cake. Her actual words were: “God is an awsome (sic) God.” Yes, JAC, where was this “awesome” god when it came to the life of the poor gorilla?

    880 silverbacks left. 7 billion humans left. Yep, that’s an awesome god alright…

    As a species, we really suck. Billions of us pray to and believe in an imaginary being, while we destroy our own environment and that of all creatures. We’re the ones who deserve a bullet. Not an innocent, beautiful, wild creature, a sentient being, who deserves life and freedom just as much as any human.

    Grrr…this makes me so angry. And the mother shouting “Mommy’s right here”. Maybe Mommy should have been paying more attention when she actually was “right here”. A little late when your four-year-old is staring into a gorilla’s eyes. Kids are quick. I get that. I raised 2 kids, but f’n hell, keep an extra special eye out in certain situations. It’s not rocket science.

    • Filippo
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      “Heaven watches this, with folded arms.”

      – Hitch

  40. Karen concerned over killing animals
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    There is no excuse for this Mother! Seriously if you can’t keep your children from escaping your view or grasp then don’t be taking them places, especially places that can become quite dangerous. Would this Mother be excused if she had lost the child to a kidnapper or murderer, of course God saved this child! Punish this woman this was serious negligence!!!

    • Posted June 1, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      I fully excuse all parents who lose children to kidnappers and murderers. I place the blame on the latter.

  41. Bev
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Some parents don’t have a lot of common sense. At the Oakland Zoo several years ago I watched as a woman picked up her toddler and placed her on a wall overlooking the lion exhibit. Fortunately a zoo employee was nearby and rushed over to tell her to take the child down. Just one slip and the child would have been down there with the lions.

    • Filippo
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      I contemplate what moral duty another non-employee visitor (in the absence of an employee) has to take proactive action in the face of such – what’s a civil locution – lack of judgement.

    • Dominic
      Posted June 6, 2016 at 5:32 am | Permalink

      It should not have been possible for her to put her child in a dangerous place – that is the zoo being neglectful. Not a big fan of keeping large animals in zoos…

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 3, 2016 at 5:07 am | Permalink

      Good one!


    • rickflick
      Posted June 3, 2016 at 5:35 am | Permalink

      Better than The Onion.

    • merilee
      Posted June 3, 2016 at 9:38 am | Permalink


  42. Dominic
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    If we are going to value the life of a person above that of a gorilla, what about all the people who die because they have no medical care, when society spends millions on the healthcare of pets?

    • Posted June 6, 2016 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      “If we are going to value the life of a person above that of a gorilla, what about all the people who die because they have no medical care, when society spends millions on the healthcare of pets?”

      Good point. Anyone who owns a pet in the west is likely spending more on it than it would cost to keep alive a starving child in a third world country. So if you argue the child’s life has more value while owning a pet you’re at best a hypocrite.

  43. Elmore
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    The gorilla could have killed that kid in a minute. So yes they probably had little choice and had to take the animal out. But the bullshit story about how that gorilla crushed a coconut with one hand is so stupid and people bought into it. It would take many tons of force, well beyond the strength of this animal, to bust a coconut.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 3:27 am | Permalink

      And regarding the coconut–I heard three different “officials” use that same statement, “I’ve seen a gorilla crush a coconut with its bare hands,” in the interviews following the shooting. I noticed it first from the main spokesperson of the Cincinnati Zoo, then in an interview with Jack Hanna, then in testimony from a Florida zoo official who’d been consulted.

      So–is this a mandatory film shown in Zookeeping 101? Or an urban legend of zoos? Interesting, too, that each person said quite clearly that, “I’ve seen a gorilla..” do this. By the third statement, I was already wondering what else about their confident assessments was also bogus.

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 3:28 am | Permalink

        And of course, all Americans and others who heard this commentary will now accept this as fact as well.

      • Posted June 17, 2016 at 5:58 am | Permalink

        It seems harder than that.


        • Diane G.
          Posted June 17, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

          Cute find!

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