It has been a tough few days. The killing of Harambe has left me a bit rattled. Yes, I am one of the judgmental people blaming the parents of the little boy who didn’t just “fall” into the enclosure, but chose to find his way in. If it was that easy or could happen that fast, wouldn’t more children have done it?
I find it easier to place blame on the parents because neither appear sorry for what happened to Harambe. Not one of them has expressed shame or sadness, let alone accountability for the death of Harambe. I find that unbelievably selfish.
From what I have heard, this is not the first time their parenting skills have been questioned. In fact, I heard on the news last night that they are being investigated by the Cincinnati police now. Good.
Harambe’s murder didn’t just spring from poor parenting, his murder brings to light the issue of zoos, altogether. Many, or should I say most, who walk in my circle of animal welfare have come to recognize zoos as cruel places of immoral captivity. Taking any wild animal and placing it in a concrete cage is less than freeing and certainly, when truly thought through, should be less than entertaining for compassionate people to observe. Watching an African lion pace 100 strides back and forth is not fun nor does it bring a smile to my face.
Harambe was a critically endangered species of gorilla, a western lowland. He was brought in specifically to mate with the zoo’s females and help populate the species again. It is for this reason, that there are proponents of the zoo. Some argue, that while zoos are holding animals captive, they are doing so with the intent to save the many endangered species on our planet.
I have spent much of the last few days contemplating that concept.
Here are my questions… 1) If the true intent of zoos is conservation, why don’t they operate like a sanctuary? I have been fortunate enough to work in a sanctuary. Sanctuaries do not put their animals in constant view of people. Animals are given very large spaces away from people, so they can live a life free of stress. Sanctuaries, whenever possible, allow animals to return to the wild after they have healed. I worked at a place called Safe Haven where we treated cougars, fox, bobcat, possum, etc… Some of the cougars were from zoos and were not able to return to the wild, but any other animal who came in was given minimal human interaction, so it’s chances for survival were great. If Harambe, whose sperm was saved, is able to impregnate a few females who are then able to carry babies to term and deliver health baby gorillas, will those gorillas return to the wild or will they be locked up just like Harambe?
2) I find it painfully interesting that we as a nation are willing to invest millions of dollars in the captivity of animals for the so-called sake of preserving the species, but cannot put the same type of passion, effort and financial backing behind stopping the myriad of reasons species are endangered in the first place. Poaching, lack of environmental control, corporate company destruction of varying species land, etc… these are the very reasons these animals have come to be endangered. Why not spend the money to PREVENT the endangerment and allow the animals to thrive in their natural habitat and not a concrete cage?
3) Lastly, what are we preserving these endangered species for? If we do not return them to the wild aren’t we just creating a larger collection of shoes to display? Yes, I value the miraculous amount of different species of plants and animals on this planet. It is heartbreaking to realize that so many have become extinct. However, part of extinction is a result of evolution. If we are simply saving species so that we can place them in a glass box and selfishly observe them, I don’t believe we are actually preserving life for the right reasons. I am fairly confident that a life in a concrete cage, is not the life Harambe was seeking nor his creator.
We literally pluck wild animals from their environment and place them in concrete cages for our entertainment while justifying it by saying we are saving a species. We really are that selfish.
Harambe died because of human ignorance and human greed. Those are not the traits I find pleasing in a human race and neither should you. We can and should do better. We are supposed to be the most intelligent species of all with the intrinsic capability of compassion – it is time we show the animals of our planet that we are. It is time we stop treating this planet like it was created solely for us. It is time we finally act like the superior species and treat animals as they were meant to be treated with kindness and compassion and respect.