Tuesday, June 7, 2016

News Reaction: Harambe or #GorillaLifeMattersYourOpinionDoesn't

So a toddler squeezed himself through the barriers, and fell 15 feet (approx) into the moat of the gorilla enclosure of the Cincinnati Zoo. A male gorilla rushed to see what had intruded his compound and found the boy, sitting in the water. He came into contact with the boy. Some who looked at the video (in full or more likely partially) decided that the gorilla was just being friendly, and even protective.

Others who saw the gorilla, disturbed or agitated by the screaming crowd, grab the boy by a leg and first drag him through the water to another spot in the moat, before taking the boy further away (not sure from the video posted on line), decided that the gorilla was a danger to the boy, whether intentionally or accidentally. That is, even if the gorilla meant the boy no harm, his rough handling of the boy, might just injure the boy, perhaps fatally.

The Cincinnati Zoo assessed the situation and decided that the risk to the boy was too great, and the only reasonable course of action was to shoot the gorilla. Tranquillisers were out of the question as a) they took too long to work, and b), the proper dosage would be an educated guess, and c) even if the dose was correct in a normal situation, an agitated gorilla would present uncertainty in estimating the dosage. Moreover, the shock of a tranquilliser dart hitting the gorilla may cause the already agitated gorilla to respond unpredictably.

So the zoo that have spent months and perhaps years looking after the gorilla, and who had plans for Harambe in their breeding programme, decided that the most reasonable course was to shoot the gorilla.

And the internet got outraged.

Well, some of the internet or "netizens" were outraged that an innocent gorilla had paid with its life for the intrusion of a toddler, the possible negligence of the parents in allowing their child to breach the gorilla enclosure, and the zoo officials for deciding, rather perfunctorily they thought, to kill the gorilla without considering less lethal solutions.

If they were upset that an endangered gorilla was killed, well, I am upset too. I think it is regrettable that such a decision had to be made.

But then, they turned into a lynch mob, trying to find someone to blame. Suddenly, "everyone is now an expert on zoo management, gorilla behaviors, tranquilizer darts and proper parenting."

"The parents should have... the zoo could have... the gorilla was only... tranquillisers would have worked... the gorilla needn't have been killed... "

Meanwhile experts were saying that the zoo did the right thing. That even though the gorilla meant no harm, he might have inadvertently harm or even killed the child. And even Jane Goodall, though obviously regretting the death of an endangered animal, and whose reputation and standing certainly would give her some standing if she came out against the shooting, deferred to experts at the scene.

So here is the world's most renown primatologist commenting on the Harambe shooting. In spite of her expertise and standing, while she proffers her opinion, tentatively, about the intentions of Harambe, she does not presume to understand the situation better than the people on scene.

Not so, those "outraged" by the killing of Harambe and critical of the Zoo's decision to shoot the gorilla.

They either believed that

a) the gorilla was harmless. What is the basis of their warm fuzzy feeling? I don't know. Jane Goodall's tentative opinion was that Harambe seemed benign. But she understood that hers was at best an opinion. And she deferred to the judgement of more experienced zoo staff. That's humility.
b) the life of an endangered gorilla was worth more than the life of a (unendangered) human child. After all, there are over 6 billion of us.
c) The zoo should have used a fast acting tranquilizer to knock out the gorilla. And the basis of this "solution"? Too many unrealistic movies and TV shows with fictitious "instant tranquilisers".

Comments about the internet outrage pointed out that this was on-line vigilante justice and beastly behaviour and innocent people were wrongly targeted.

Some also pointed out the hypocrisy or double standards. The outrage over a child's death is often less than that of an animals death.
Within 48 hours of Harambe's death, a petition calling for criminal charges against the parents of the unidentified 3-year-old boy received more than 330,000 signatures. After more than 18 months, a petition calling for the indictment of Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback in the killing of Tamir Rice has received less than 120,000 signatures.
 [At the time of this writing, the Justice for Harambe petition has over 500,000 signatures.]

Of course Gorilla lives matter, especially when they are endangered species. But so do human lives.

But here's the thing. Unless you have expertise on primate behaviour, unless you are familiar with the specific gorilla in question, unless you are responsible for the safety of all at the scene, and unless you were at the scene and knew the full extent of situation as it unfolded, your opinion like mine, DOES NOT MATTER. But I like that you are arrogant enough to think that yours matter more.

No comments: