The tragic death of Harambe, the 17-year-old western lowland silverback gorilla at the Cincinnati zoo set the social media world ablaze. Millions were rightly angry at the Zoo’s decision to kill the ape to save the child. Was his death preventable? Many attacked the parents for their poor parental supervision. Were adequate safeguards in place at the zoo to prevent just such an accident? Why not attempt to tranquilize Harambe? Zoo officials say they didn’t want to take the chance of possibly aggravating the ape, causing it to be violent towards the child. In the end, while we saved a child, humans murdered an endangered species for just being itself. This is the worst scenario possible. It leads to the greater issue of whether humans are of greater importance to life on the planet than that of an endangered species.
Think about it. With 7 billion + in total population, humans are not endangered. Silverback mountain Gorillas are the most endangered of their species with less than a thousand left in the entire world. Now equate the loss of just one mountain gorilla (in a zoo or in the wild) with that of one human being. One gorilla is the equivalent of some 30,000+ human beings! Consider the horrible massacre in Orlando. 49 people murdered. And yet that loss of life has zero baring on the fate of the human species. Primatologists raised Harambe with the express purpose to breed other apes. And according to Zoo Director Thane Maynard, “it’ll be a loss to the gene pool of lowland gorillas.”
Human beings are the only animal we know of that knowingly and purposefully destroys its own habitat. Humans contribute to global warming and decimate ecosystems for the sake of profit. As a species of animal, humans contribute to the extinction of thousands of animals. Approximately 800 are listed on the IUCN Red List. And Australian scientists now say that human caused climate change has caused a population of small mammals from the Great Barrier Reef to go extinct.
Have we reached a point where it is just possible that there are circumstances where the life of an endangered animal is more significant than the life of another human being? Of course, if I were a father and my child somehow fell into a gorilla enclosure at a zoo, I would want the zoo staff to do everything possible to save the life of my child. And that is exactly what was on the minds of the Cincinnati zoo staff when trying to decide whether to kill Harambe or not.
But when you watch the video of Harambe, other than dragging the child, he doesn’t seem to take any threatening action towards the child. He appears dumbfounded, trying to understand why the child is there to begin with. Keep in mind, the child never sustained any major injuries. The screams of the people from above agitated Harambe, no doubt. The child himself was of no threat to the ape. But we will never know how Harambe would have behaved if zoo officials had shot him with a tranquilizer instead.
We are living in a time where environmental changes on Earth are aggregating in such a way and at a speed to indicate a planetary tipping point is just ahead. Nature consists of a complex web of interconnection. Any time a living creature of that web goes extinct, it impacts directly or indirectly the living circumstances of other creatures. The more connections, the greater likelihood of a system that will remain stable. Remove one single connection and you set off a chain reaction that ultimately has no positive ending. Reduce species and you negatively impact the survival prospects of human beings.
I can imagine a not too distant future where the life of an endangered species is deemed more important than that of the human. By saving the life of the child, we have harmed the survival prospects for not only the endangered species but that of humanity itself. Harambe’s demise at the hands of human intervention symbolizes a now faster moving train wreck. As a civilization we must begin to carry out policies that elevate the role of endangered animal species over that of humanity itself. Otherwise, all we are accomplishing is our own undoing. We are actively contributing to our own inevitable extinction.
The killing of Harambe, a silverback mountain gorilla, begs the need for a greater discussion on whether there are circumstances where the life of an endangered animal is more significant than the life of another human being.