What is my mother’s real-life saber-toothed tiger? I’ll probably never know.
You’ve probably heard: a gorilla died the other day. A child fell into the animal’s enclosure and zoo officials made the decision to kill the gorilla.
And then the Internet passed a whole lot of judgement.
A lot of people blame the zoo (why didn’t they use tranquilizers?! Why was a child able to fit through the fence?!) and a lot of people blamed humanity in general (wild creatures should be wild!) and a WHOLE lot of people blame the parents (how could they let their kid fall into a gorilla pen?!)
I have three kids. I’ve had, I don’t know, a dozen or so animals in my life. And some of them were big and perfectly capable of smooshing a small body, not out of malice but because the child was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And children are really talented at getting themselves into wrong places at wrong times. It’s practically their job.
I remember when good friends came to have a cookout and meet our 2,000-pound Clydesdale, Carly, about 15 years ago. We were chatting in the paddock, admiring the horse, when the two-year-old scooted under Carly’s belly and out the other side. Four adults within arm’s reach, and the kid was fast enough that none of us was able to react beyond not breathing for the split second it took for the boy to risk his life. We were very, very lucky that day. We have been (knock wood, toss salt, etc) very lucky every day.
If you watch a video of the gorilla and the boy, it’s clear to anyone who has spent any time with any kind of animal that the child was in danger. Not because the gorilla was malicious. But because he weighed 400 pounds and was an animal. Animals don’t have the same brains as humans. They don’t react to situations like we do. Humans can take stock, consider consequences, and make choices. Animals simply react. They follow their gut. They are all gut. And when it’s gorilla gut versus little boy, well, the gorilla gut is going to do whatever it wants. And the boy will probably die.
Also? Tranquilizer darts take several minutes to work.
The mom you hear on the video, telling the little boy that Mommy loves him? You know she’s going to carry this for the rest of her life. She will never be free of that fear. And as much blame and vitriol that the Internet has been throwing her way, it’s nothing compared to the guilt she feels right now. So we can all stop judging. The punishment began the moment it happened.