Parenting is, without a doubt, incredibly tough. When taking children to any public space, extreme vigilance needs to be exercised — vigilance that seemed to be lacking in the case of the three-year-old boy who fell into a gorilla enclosure in the Cincinnati Zoo on May 28.
The boy was with his mother enjoying the sights and sounds of their day trip, until it all went awry. The toddler escaped from his mother and, as CNN reported, “went under a rail, through wires, and over a moat wall to get into [an] enclosure.” The boy fell about 15 feet into the shallow moat before the public and Harambe, a large Western lowland silverback gorilla, noticed him.
To save the boy, the zoo’s directors decided to kill the gorilla instead of tranquilizing it, as it could have agitated Harambe even more, and the animal would have taken longer to tranquilize due to its size.
An outcry from animal rights activists has since resulted in a Facebook group and an online petition with almost 500,000 signatures as of publication. Activists are calling on the boy’s parents to be held accountable for the gorilla’s death. I am not an animal rights activist by any means, but I do feel that the parents were and should be held responsible for the death of an endangered animal, and that this should be a lesson in proper parenting for any student hoping to have children.
Harambe was shot and killed due to human error that could have been easily prevented with more vigilance. If this were to continue, we can only imagine the horrific results that could arise. Next time, we might be buzzing about the unsupervised child who ran into oncoming traffic and was hit by a car.
We have a moral obligation, as adults and potential future parents, to ensure the complete safety of our children at all times. This comes about from teaching children at a young age about the dangers that can occur if they wander away from their caregivers.
In my pre-teen years, when my parents went out for a relaxing night on the town, they trusted me with the care and safety of my younger siblings. Another family I regularly babysat for had three children (one of whom was an infant at the time) and a fairly large German shepherd. The kids and I went out for walks to the park, and at all times my eyes were peeled and alert as we crossed streets and walked along sidewalks.
Through my experience, I already fully understand how quick toddlers can be. If I were to turn away at any point, I would be responsible for any harm that arose. I’d have to own that responsibility, and so should the irresponsible mother of the child who fell into the zoo enclosure.
The zoo ultimately had to make a swift decision to save the boy, but the zoo should not be held responsible for the death of Harambe.
Children are flighty and spontaneous creatures, and I’m not calling on humans to be perfect because I know we’re not. But when we begin our parenting years (and for those students who are already parents), we need to realize that, yes, being cautious and vigilant with children is easier said than done; but the fact that an innocent life is in our hands should act as a motivator for us to act responsibly.