For thousands of years, humans have fawned over exotic wild animals while they were trapped behind bars. Currently global climate change is destroying habitats, causing them and the animals who live in it to disappear. This in turn allows zoos to argue their own existence is essential for the preservation of these endangered animals. Many animal activists state wild animals belong in the wild, not in captivity. This feud was heightened by recent events at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Harambe, a 17-year-old silverback gorilla was born and raised in captivity and moved to the Cincinnati Zoo in 2015 for breeding purposes. He was shot and killed two weeks ago when a three-year-old boy fell into Harambe’s pen. Now animal activists are up in arms.
The silverback gorilla is categorized as an African Western Lowland gorilla. According the Cincinnati Zoo, these gorillas are critically endangered with fewer than 175,000 in the wild and 765 allocated to zoos worldwide. The placement of these gorillas in zoos for preservation is inconsequential if the establishment that is supposed to be protecting them causes them to be endangered even further.
Harambe’s death was a rare situation. But it is a situation that weighs the importance of human life over that of an endangered animal. The controversy boils down to who is to blame. Police are investigating the parent of the young boy and there is a petition seeking “Justice for Harambe” on change.org circulating the internet with over 500,000 signatures as of June 13. The petition states, “This beautiful gorilla lost his life because the boy’s parents did not keep a closer watch on the child.” The boy had stated that he wanted to enter the enclosure, and when the mother turned away, the three year old had fallen in.
According to an interview from CNN, the Cincinnati Zoo stated that shooting the animal was necessary for the safety of the child, and they would make the same choice again due to a silverback gorilla’s immense strength and unpredictable nature. But organizations like PETA argue if the zoo had better made enclosures or if the animal was in the wild, Harambe’s death could have been avoided.
Unfortunately, the already endangered species has one less surviving member. Harambe’s death supports animal activist’s claims that even in controlled enclosures, captivity is never acceptable for animals meant to be in the wild.