Should parents of child who climbed in gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, causing Harambe to be killed, be held criminally responsible for the child’s behavior in the death of a critically endangered species?

Myrtle Beach, SC, Orlando, FL June 13, 2016

 Myrtle Beach Correspondent-Let me start by saying I’m not a parent so you can take my opinion with a grain of salt. That being said this is probably not a case of a “bad mother” more-so a case of “bad-judgment” or lack of common sense.

It is said that the small boy had expressed his desires to get close to the gorilla and even expressed his desires to enter the enclosure. So… why didn’t she place the child in a stroller and strap him in? Why didn’t she decide to leave? Why didn’t she decide to carry the boy? Well, I’m not her I can’t say why these things didn’t happen. All I can say is anyone with common sense would have done any of them.

Do her actions warrant criminal charges? I’m going to say possibly on this one. As far as I’m concerned this is not much different than the Cecil the Lion issue a while back. This is an endangered species (critically endangered I may add). This is a situation that SHOULD have been avoided, either by knowledge or by preventative measures. Although I think she is liable I’m not so sure that charging her a “criminal” fee would be as successful as some other form of punishment, maybe volunteer work for endangered species or having her participate in fundraising for an endangered species. Something along those lines.

The biggest issue here is what do we do moving forward? This type of situation cannot happen again. This was fully preventable. I’m not a big supporter of bullet proof enclosures and barbed wire fences etc. It’s not fair for animals to endure those types of enclosures purely for our enjoyment. If that’s the outcome I say close every zoo down. So what’s the solution? My suggestion is Zoos provide “leashes” for any children under say…5 years old. If they encounter a child who is not on the leash and not strapped into a stroller the family is asked to leave immediately. It may sound like a harsh reaction but it’s no secret we can’t count on children to make wise decisions, and it’s no secret that they can run off in an instant! Doesn’t mean you are a bad parent, it’s just the nature of the beast, and we have to tame that beast, and not at the expense of the animals.

 Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-It’s sad that Harambe had to go out like that. However, this was a very delicate and desperate situation. Seemingly, Harambe might have caused harm to the child in question. A tranquilizer might have been an alternative; however, it might not have been effective until a few minutes. Putting the gorilla to sleep might have been too late for the child. Should the parents be held responsible for the death of the gorilla? That is difficult to say, but I do believe the circumstance under which the events unveiled should be considered.

If you have a child, you’d know how difficult they are to control and monitor. In this instance, the woman whose child fell in the gorilla’s enclosure, had several. At the moment, she had several kids on her hand. Undoubtedly, the one who fell in Harambe’s grasp might have strayed out of curiosity. Give the parents a break!

Instead of holding the parents criminally responsible, the owners of the zoo should have ensured to put protective measures in place. A zoo is no place to loiter about. I believe, instead of watching wild animals from an open slot where eventualities are inevitable, let them watch these animals through a window and tighten security. There should be sufficient qualified individuals on spot to watch out for these things. Give the parents a break!

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-I have watched with a piquant mix of resignation, horror and black humor as the usual critter-huggers and mom-bashers have lined up to throw brickbats at the mother of the little boy who ended up in the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla enclosure. Twitter, ever that bastion of clear thinking and moderation, fairly vomited bile on the woman, calling her everything from an unfit mother to a gorilla murderer (most of it misspelled).

As any parent who’s being honest with themselves will tell you: We could ALL have been “gorilla mom.” I have two sons, and I can clearly remember numerous times when one would catch my attention, and I’d turn back to find the other one wandering.  I stand 6’5”, so I can see over most crowds, but that’s of no use when the quarry you seek is burrowing under them.

Those who think a 3-year-old isn’t capable of truly mind-boggling amounts of mischief and danger-seeking have obviously not been around one for a while.  At that age, their motor skills are alarmingly well developed, but they haven’t yet gained the judgment and sense of caution to go with them.  I’m sure what went through this little boy’s mind was something on the order of, “Gotta go see the monkey!” and he was off.  The gorilla probably looked about adult-sized, and since the adults in his life are (hopefully) pretty nice to him, he most likely never gave a thought to danger.

If there is any fault to be laid in this matter, it’s with the zoo for having an enclosure that apparently was no hindrance at all to a 3-year-old.  Those enclosures are there as much to protect the animals from the public as the reverse. While I don’t want to see every animal walled off behind bulletproof glass and barbed wire, perhaps something a bit more intimidating than a simple fence is called for.

But the zoo has stepped up and already installed new barriers, and the exhibit has reopened. I say leave a flower at Harambe’s memorial, but leave the “gorilla mom” alone.

 Owatonna, MN Correspondent-I don’t see how criminal charges against the parents can be justified in this case. They had no idea their child would be able to get through the barrier to the exhibit. They had no idea that the authorities would choose to kill the gorilla rather than tranquilize him in order to save the child. They certainly didn’t seem to have a wanton disregard for the law or the zoo’s safety policies. This was a case of a child doing what children do—acting impulsively and not understanding the consequences of their action.

If any person or group should be criminally charged, it should be the zoo administration since someone in a position of power there made the decision to kill the gorilla. However, the zoo appeared to be in full compliance with all safety laws with respect to animal enclosures. As long as they were operating within the law, I don’t see how prosecuting the zoo could result in a criminal conviction.

To me, the real underlying theme here is America’s obsession with keeping everyone 100% safe from every possible danger the world has to offer. We can’t protect everyone from every hazard or danger. We can’t outlaw human nature, and we can’t outlaw stupidity and foolishness. Sooner or later, everyone does something stupid, risky, reckless, or foolish. Most of us survive and learn from those experiences. The Cincinnati Zoo has learned that even an apparently safe enclosure was no match for a determined three-year-old. The parents of the child have learned their child is more of a daredevil than they thought. Animal rights activists have learned that humans will always put human lives above animal lives. That’s not just human nature, that’s nature, period—the instinct of self-preservation.

Prescott Valley, NV Correspondent-The mother of the child who climbed into the gorilla enclosure should be made responsible for her negligence.  She should have anticipated the possibility of her 3-year old child doing what he did, particularly when he was prodding her to let him get into the area because of the water and wanting to see the gorilla “up close and personal.”  (Apparently news organizations reported a 4-year old child toppled into the moat area.)

He should have been put on a “short leash” and told, you are not going to get near the animal, no matter how much you want to play in the water or see the gorilla.  She should have further said, “It is not safe for anyone to get that close to a wild animal because of danger to you and danger to the animal.” That should have been the end of the story.  She should have further reiterated in simple terms long before the visit to the zoo that it is better to see the animal from the outside and the protection of the barrier.  No one should go into spaces like this other than possible zoo workers that care for and feed the animals.

It should have been further explained in child-like terms that animal behavior is unpredictable, especially when you are invading the animal’s space or habitat (where he lives).  Since the child was so enamored of the water, the mother should have also talked about the risks of going into the water and from there possibly planted a seed in the child’s mind about playing in a kiddy pool at home once the zoo excursion was finished.  There should have been the choice of either behaving appropriately at the zoo or leaving the zoo right away.  If the child’s behavior was good at the zoo, he should have been given the option of playing in the water at home under parental supervision.

Even though there was barrier protection at the zoo, it was limited and there was easy access to the moat, the mother should still have anticipated the child’s curiosity, particularly after the child continued to goad her about getting near the water.

Zoos and other public places where possible dangers exist need to institute child and parent proofing when the danger is in such close proximity to anyone.  There are agencies that monitor public zoos and watch closely over such possible enticements to enter more dangerous areas of a zoo. The barrier should have been noted as a possible hazard and reconstructed and closed until such time that it was determined to be a safe area for zoo-goers.

The supposition that people today are aware enough to anticipate much of anything associated with common sense is a behavior that is part of the culture of political correctness and is ignored or explained away in today’s society of laxity and minimal parental supervision.

Pressing criminal charges is the responsibility of the zoo and those agencies that monitor the zoo. It is not up to the animal lovers who are scouring and plastering social media with petitions, threats and condemnation of the zoo and the parents.  Possibly the zoo itself could be fined by state, county or city governments concerning the safe operation of the facility.  The zoo simply should not have assumed that something of this nature would not eventually happen.  There are always going to be those who refuse to use critical thinking skills when it comes to entertaining or recreating with their children.

It comes down to the age old adage of responsibility for your actions, and in this case responsibility for the actions of a child.  Anytime there is open temptation like water, animals and other enticements, a parent must be skilled and informed enough to realize what a child can do in a few seconds time.

Hopefully the mother learned her lesson, but she should probably face some kind of fine or payment for the loss of the animal, or be required to take a parenting skills class, which would be more effective than criminal prosecution and jail time.  At this point, she is probably just grateful her child survived the ordeal.  Too bad the gorilla had to suffer the consequences of her inability and lack of interpretation of her child’s determination to get to the water and the gorilla.  Sad, but this occurrence is just another characteristic of a permissive and lenient society.

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