Did the Gorilla need to die?

Posted by Adam Leach | May 31st, 2016




Did the Gorilla need to die?
Why the Gorilla did what it did…

AN AUSTRALIAN animal behaviour expert says the gorilla shot dead in a popular US zoo would not have harmed the child who fell into his enclosure.

There has been global outragef19a94535cb495fcd482c0d6338a69be since a silverback gorilla, Harambe, was shot and killed “to save the life of a child” who climbed through a public barrier at Gorilla World, Cincinatti Zoo.
Thousands of people signed a petition on Change.org that called for the child’s parents to be “held accountable for their actions of not supervising their child”.
Cincinnati police said the parents had not been charged, but that charges could eventually be sought by the Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney.
The four-year-old boy dropped 4.5 metres into a moat before coming face to face with the leader of a troop of silverbacks.
Footage filmed on a mobile phone shows the 17-year-old gorilla on all fours standing over the boy. The 200kg primate turns the boy around before pulling on his clothing and “dragging” him away from horrified onlookers.
University of New England animal behaviour expert Gisela Kaplan told news.com.au she does not believe the boy was in any real danger.
“Usually a child is not a threat,” said Professor Kaplan, who is the author of Orang-utans in Borneo.
“The silverback would’ve understood that it was a defenceless small child. They would not normally attack, they are not an agreessive species (and) in the wild I’m certain the boy wouldn’t have been killed.”
Prof Kaplan said the leader of the troop was doing what it was supposed to do. It was “investigating”, not attacking.
“I can tell you silverbacks are protectors of their group,” she said.
“If there’s an unusual thing happening, (Harambe) needs to investigate. The fact that he went over to the child is absolutely natural behaviour but it doesn’t mean he was aggressive.
“If he was going to attack he would’ve warned him first. The first thing they do is charge and beat their chests and as far as I know that didn’t happen.”
Prof Kaplan said Harambe likely moved the boy away from the screaming crowd of people because of the noise.
“Screaming is only used in extreme situations with primates and it would’ve only raised stress levels. I think it’s wrong that they shot it dead but I wasn’t there so it’s hard to be too critical.”
She said Harambe’s family would be grieving.
“The death will have a vast impact on the entire troop. They’re like human families, you can’t replace Harambe with another male. There’s a sense of love and bonding and the entire troop will be destroyed.”
Cincinatti Zoo said it did everything possible to avoid having to shoot Harambe, but Prof Kaplan said the gorilla should have responded to commands.
“If the keepers have a good relationship with the group, it should’ve been one keeper giving a command. Calm him down, that should’ve been sufficient,” she said.
In the mobile phone footage, the boy’s mum can be heard shouting: “Mummy’s right here. Isaiah, be calm. Mummy loves you.”
Zoo director Thane Maynard said the zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team tried to call the gorillas out of the exhibit. Two females complied but Harambe did not, Mr Maynard said in a statement.
“Tranquillising the 450-pound gorilla was not an option,” he said, so staff “put the gorilla down”.
Social media lit up following the news. Many were critical of the response and some lashed out at the boy’s parents. The incident is a first for Gorilla World, which opened in 1978.
“This is the first time there has been a breach,” zoo officials said in a statement.
“The barrier that we have in place has been effective for 38 years. Nevertheless, we will study this incident as we work toward continuous improvement for the safety of our visitors and animals.”
Witness Kim O’Connor said she heard the boy say he wanted to get in the water before falling into the moat. She said panicked bystanders may have aggravated the tense situation.
“I don’t know if the screaming did it or too many people hanging on the edge, if he thought we were coming in, but then he pulled the boy down away further from the big group.”
Officials said the gorilla was “violently dragging and throwing the child” before it was shot.
Harambe, a western lowland gorilla, was born in captivity and moved to the Ohio zoo in 2014.
He turned 17 the day before he was shot. Silverback gorillas usually live to around 50 years of age.
this happened while my Mom was at the gorilla exhibit. Her video. #cincinnatizoo #gorilla #harambe pic.twitter.com/RFBUQEQGAr
— Amber Soler (@Amber_Soler) May 29, 2016
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) sent a statement to news.com.au.
“Yet again, captivity has taken an animal’s life. The gorilla enclosure should have been surrounded by a secondary barrier between the humans and the animals to prevent exactly this type of incident,” primatologist Julia Gallucci said.
“Gorillas have shown that they can be protective of smaller living beings and react the same way any human would to a child in danger. Consider Binti Jua, the gorilla who carried a child to a zookeeper’s gate. Even under the “best” circumstances, captivity is never acceptable for gorillas or other primates, and in cases like this, it’s even deadly.
“This tragedy is exactly why PETA urges families to stay away from any facility that displays animals as sideshows for humans to gawk at.”
A similar incident took place in 1986 when a five-year-old boy fell into a gorilla enclosure at Jersey Zoo. On that occasion, Jambo, a massive male silverback, protected the child, who had suffered head injuries during the fall.
Footage shows the gorilla gently stroking the young boy’s back as he lay unconscious on the concrete.

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