The Sonia Show

Writer. Mocker. Beer drinker. Old movie watcher. Mother. Goober.

Animal behavior

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Yeah, so, I have some thoughts and feelings about the incident at the Cincinnati Zoo, in which a 4-year-old boy climbed over the barricades and fell into the gorilla enclosure. The gorilla, Harambe, grabbed the boy, proceeded to violently drag him through the water, threw him in the air, and as a result the zoo staff was forced to kill the gorilla to save the boy. Did you read that story? It’s awful.


Photo yanked from the Cincinnati Zoo’s Facebook page.

I’m probably opening myself up to all kinds of shit here, but here I go again …

This is heartbreaking. The mother didn’t want her son in the gorilla encampment. She didn’t toss him in there. He’s 4. He climbs stuff. He fell in. The gorilla was just doing what gorillas do. The zoo staff didn’t want to kill the gorilla. The gorilla didn’t deserve to die. Zoo staff just wanted to save the boy.  It’s a super shitty situation all around. And instead of looking to blame someone, the internet acknowledged that this situation is tragic, expressed empathy for everyone involved and began exploring options to make sure it never happens again.

Ha! Just kidding. The internet freaked out like it always does, because outrage culture is an addiction, and there’s no justice like angry mob justice.

Everyone is calling for the mother’s head, because everyone is assuming that she was screwing around on her phone liking photos on Facebook or something and not watching her son. This is just another example of lazy parents who let their kids run wild and look what happened. Some media outlet even went as far as to write a story about the father’s criminal history, because that’s totally relevant. Some people have started a petition on to investigate the parents and have their children possibly taken away. I have no idea what these parents’ lives are like, what their backgrounds are and what their situation is. Maybe they are awful parents. I have no idea, but it doesn’t sound like they were being criminally negligent here. Their son got away from them. It happens. It’s happened to me.

I’ve been this parent.

We go to the zoo a few times a month. We live just five minutes away from the San Francisco Zoo. My son is 4 years old, and he has absolutely gotten away from me. He’s 4! He runs. He climbs. I watch him the best I can, because I want to keep him safe. But sometimes, I look into my purse to get my lip balm or grab crackers for him or – yeah – look at my phone, and when I look back he’s out of sight. It’s happened. It’s frightening. It’s the worst feeling in the world.

I’m lucky. My boy Calvin hasn’t done anything like climb into a cage with an animal. But he has gotten away from me. Am I a lazy parent? I believe almost all parents have a story about their kid getting away from them. If you’re not a parent, ask your parents for their story about you. I bet they have one.

I think some of the outraged people need to watch the video of the boy in the enclosure with the gorilla. It’s scary as hell. The gorilla doesn’t put the kid on his back and sing like they’re in “The Jungle Book.” The 450-pound gorilla drags that kid through the water, and he really looks like he’s going to kill the boy. We have no way of knowing the gorilla’s intentions. We can speculate, but we don’t really know. In the video the boy’s mother is calling his name and screaming that she loves him. I watched about a minute of it before I almost started having a panic attack. I couldn’t watch much more than that.

Let me be very clear, I don’t think the gorilla deserved to die. He was a beautiful gorilla. It’s a really sad outcome, and I’m sure the zoo staff really struggled to make their decision. No one wanted to kill Harambe.  I’m just taking note that the same people who have so much empathy for Harambe seem to have no empathy for the mother or the little boy involved. I have empathy for everyone involved.

Wild animals are going to be wild animals. I have no doubt that gorilla was scared, and was acting out of self defense. The situation is tragic. It’s fuckin’ terrible. I love animals. I love them so much I don’t eat them or drink their milk. But, let’s be reasonable, a little boy doesn’t deserve to die because he climbed over some barricades and fell into the gorilla encampment. I don’t care if that kid is an asshole. He doesn’t deserve to have his head smashed in by a gorilla.

And all the outrage directed at his mother? Yes, parents should watch their kids. I agree. BUT, we also need to admit that people shouldn’t be able to get into the wild animal environments, right? This little boy isn’t Tom Cruise in “Mission Impossible” hanging from wires, trying to break into the gorilla habitat. It seems to me that the barricades at the zoo are not very good if a little boy can easily maneuver through them.

This reminds me of when the tigers escaped at the SF Zoo. Some teenagers were teasing the tigers, and then the tigers escaped and mauled those guys. Remember that? Well, everyone was like, “Fuck those guys. That’s what they get.” Sure. Those teenagers were terrible. BUT, tigers escaped from the cages! That’s not OK.

We go to the zoo, because we like animals. I think they are beautiful and amazing. Remember the time I cried looking at the giraffes? I bet the giraffes do.


Anyway, I would like to think we are safe at the zoo; that animals are not going to get out of their areas. That’s the deal. The zoo gives the animals shelter, food and water, and they stay in their areas and don’t hurt us.

I hate to say this, but if you really want to play the blame game … It’s the zoo’s responsibility to keep us safe, BUT, it’s also the zoo’s responsibility to keep the animals safe. The gorilla in this situation didn’t get out of his environment; a kid climbed over barricades and fell in. That doesn’t sound like a very secured enclosure. This means the zoo wasn’t doing its job of keeping the gorilla safe. A little boy shouldn’t have been able to get in there.

But he did.

And a gorilla died because of it.

And that’s truly sad.

It really is. I am very sad about the gorilla. It didn’t deserve to die. But that little boy doesn’t either. And I don’t think his parents deserve worldwide parent shaming, and they certainly don’t deserve to have their son take away because of this. That sounds just a tiny bit extreme, don’t you think? I don’t blame the zoo, either. They obviously believed the enclosure was secure. It just turns out it wasn’t, and I think the zoo had to make a really difficult choice because of that mistake.

Luckily, for this kid and his parents, outrage culture is fleeting. In just a few minutes Hollywood will announce another remake of a movie you love but with an all-female cast and everyone will start being outraged about that.










Author: The Sonia Show

I'm a writer/podcaster/mother/goober in San Francisco who likes to drink beer, shop, laugh and make other people laugh, watch old movies, feed my unhealthy obsession with pop culture, kick breast cancer's ass, go on adventures with my mighty, mighty good man David and my awesome autistic son, Calvin, wear orange and root for the San Francisco Giants, participate in general jackass-ery, talk about TV, eavesdrop on strangers' conversations, make nerdy “Star Wars” and “Simpsons” references, and post personal things about myself on the web for all to read, which makes me some sort of literary exhibitionist.

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