The big conversation in parenting this week is the sad situation at the Cincinnati Zoo where a 3-4 year old boy entered the gorilla enclosure. As I’m sure you know, the zoo chose to shoot and kill the gorilla, Harambe, to save the life of the child. My immediate reaction is one of gratitude that the child is safe. My secondary reaction is grief for this poor animal.

I have stopped reading and listening to the social media’s reaction to the parenting choices that were made leading up to that moment. The vitriol on both sides is heartbreaking. Everyone needs someone to blame.

But I am old enough to remember reading about a similar incident in 1996 at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois where another little boy moved away from his mother to get closer to the gorilla. He fell 20 feet and lay lifeless. A female gorilla named Binti Jua, with her own baby on her back, picked up the child and carried him to safety. Workers who were there said it’s an image they will never forget.

There are a few differences in these 2 situations.

  • Binti Jua was raised by humans, so she was more “people-oriented,” and that could have played a role in her gentle handling of the child.
  • The child was unconscious because had he been moving or crying he might have been perceived as a threat

The biggest difference is the reaction by society to the two incidents. The edited cellphone video and social media’s attacks on both the zoo and the parents are so harmful. It is so easy to criticize from the anonymity of a keyboard.