In Swahili Harambe or Harambee means to “pull together,” but it resonates currently as the name of the silverback gorilla that was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo Saturday after a child fell into the animal’s enclosure.
A video of the four-year-old in the clutches of the gorilla that in one instance appears to be rescuing the boy and in another dragging him forcefully across a pond of water has been shown again and again on television. There has been a mixed reaction and outcry. Some are upset that the gorilla was killed rather than tranquilized. Others are furious that the child was neglected. And others are angry that the security around the enclosure was so insufficient.
All these factors add up to a tragedy that could have been avoided.
How can a child be left so completely alone that he can wander off and get into such danger? More and more these days we see parents failing to look after their children. Just the other day an accident almost occurred when a mother, busy texting, lost sight of her child who had stepped off the curb and into the path of oncoming traffic.
A little more attention to our young ones is absolutely necessary on these busy streets, and even more so in places where they are automatically attracted to things that might harm them.
After the incident, the keepers of the zoo immediately went about the business of improving security fences around the various moats and enclosures. They have to take some of the blame for this since it seems incredible that a child could somehow fall into such a pit of danger.
Viewers of the footage have taken to social media to voice their complaints about the shooting of Harambe. The public was told that tranquilizing the 450-pound gorilla would have taken too much time and further endangered the child. But how about multiple shots? Why not bring him down with several darts of tranquilizer?
Thankfully, the child was rescued, though obviously seriously traumatized by the incident. But Harambe, a priceless 17-year-old gorilla, is dead.
Again, his name meant to pull together and if that had been done before the tragedy, if the parents had been more attentive, if the fence around the moat had been more inaccessible and if the emergency team had shown a little more regard for animal life, perhaps Harambe would still be alive, still a celebrated member of the zoo rather than a source of controversy and mourning.