On May 28 this year, a 4-year-old fell into the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, after climbing the protective barrier. Harambe, one of the critically endangered Western Lowland gorillas at the zoo, got a hold of the child and started dragging him around. The zoo claimed a tranquilizer would have taken too long.
With the child at risk, and Harambe agitated by the screaming crowd, the zoo made the decision to shoot Harambe to save the child. The child survived, though he received a concussion and multiple serious injuries.
The Internet has been in an uproar over Harambe’s death. Some blame the child’s parents, some blame the zoo, but everyone agrees that Harambe’s death was a tragedy. Unfortunately, Harambe is far from the only zoo animal to pay for human mistakes, though it has managed to garner a lot of outrage on behalf of animals worldwide. Even the question of whether zoos should still exist has been brought up.
1. As far back as March 1990, at the Lion Country Safari in Florida, an elephant died after reacting badly to being disciplined. It tossed and then stabbed a handler with its tusks. The handler survived after emergency surgery, but the elephant died during sedation. Of course, the U.S. doesn’t hold the monopoly on incidents.
2. In Chile, on May 18 this year, a man climbed into the big cat enclosure at the Santiago Metropolitan Zoo in an attempt to commit suicide. Two of the lions in the enclosure attacked the man and dragged him to their den. Zoo staff made the decision to shoot the lions as a tranquilizer would have taken too long, and the man was already bleeding out. The man survived the incident.
3. Just the year before, on May 17, a lion was shot at the Taian Tiger Mountain Park in Shandong. The lion ran loose in the zoo for an hour after attacking a keeper who had been cleaning the enclosure, before staff managed to put it down.
4. Singapore has its own version of an incident. In November 2008, a man jumped into the white tiger enclosure at the Singapore Zoo. In this case, the man did not survive the incident, while the animals did. Fortunately for the tigers, the death was officially ruled a suicide. The tigers were not put down, and you can still visit Omar at the zoo’s white tiger exhibit today.