In the papers today I read about a four year old boy falling into a gorilla pen in Cincinnati Zoo. He was in there for 10 minutes before the gorilla was shot and killed. During that time it’s not clear if the gorilla had tried to attack the child, but it was clear that he was much stronger and bigger than the little boy who was being dragged around and even held under the water. Thankfully the little boy survived but he did come away with some serious injuries.
There’s been a lot of ‘social’ media interest in this. A lot of blame has been put on the parents for neglecting to prevent the child from crawling into the pen and therefore causing the death of the gorilla, whose species is considered critically endangered.
The details of what exactly happened are not clear, so we don’t know how the child entered the pen.
I don’t normally weigh in on these kinds of debates, but what I do know is that as a mother of a three year old boy, this story was utterly distressing for me; both the tragedy of the death of the gorilla ‘Harambe’ as well as the horror the little boy went through.
I cannot even imagine how the little boy felt, how scared he must have been, how much physical pain he experienced. I don’t want to imagine it. As these events unfolded, some people were filming and I watched less than a minute of some footage from the news article. I couldn’t watch any more than that. I saw the little boy sitting in the water, crying, looking up at the Gorilla, and not understanding what was happening. I heard his mother calling out to him, telling him she was there and begging him to stay calm. She says ‘mummy loves you’. It was heart breaking and I had to stop watching. My son was sat next to me having breakfast and I just held him and kissed him and prayed that nothing bad ever happens to my baby.
On the other hand, the Gorilla may have been trying to protect the child from what he believed was danger in the form of the screaming crowds, who had gathered to watch. The gorilla’s aggression may have been fuelled by the anxiety of what was happening around him.
Whatever the circumstances were, the fact was that a child was in a situation where his life was in danger. However he got there, that four year old boy could have been killed by an animal that weighs about 400lbs.
As parents, we do everything we can to keep our children safe. And sometimes, it just takes a split second for something to go wrong. We make plenty of mistakes. Sometimes they’re an error of judgement or they can be from our own lack of knowledge. The mistakes may be small, or they could be life changing. But we learn from them and sometimes those lessons are incredibly hard. It doesn’t mean we are neglectful. It doesn’t mean, we have failed as parents. It means we’re human.