plural noun: memusings
    1. a memoir of a musing
         “Theo thought something and wrote it down, one might make up a portmanteau and call it a memusing”

Thoughts on the death of a gorilla

May, 2016

I’ve had a few people asking my opinion on the shooting of Harambe the Gorilla gorilla gorilla. With a bit of experience in animal behaviour, Homo sapiens attitudes to wildlife and conservation, I would like to share these thoughts.

We do not have all the information to fully conclude who is at fault for a 4 year old boy ending up in a potentially dangerous animal’s enclosure. Yes, the parents could have had him on a lead, but 4 year olds being 4 years olds, they will explore. I certainly did as a four year old, did you? Maybe it’s a bit unfair to lay all blame at the parents.

How does a 4 year old make its own way into an enclosure of a gorilla, completely unassisted by someone else? I don’t know the enclosure design, but serious questions should be asked of it and the zoo’s responsibility to have a safe, suitable and sufficiently maintained enclosure.

Do you kill a male adult gorilla who has hold of a human child, when there is an unknown outcome for the child’s welfare? From what I have seen of the footage, the gorilla seems agitated and pulling the child around forcefully, possibly with no intent to harm the child, but he probably does not realise that he has the child’s life delicately balanced in his hands and one unintentional, sudden movement, could be fatal.

To avoid that happening, I think you probably do have to shoot to kill, sadly. Otherwise you could very easily end up with a dead child, which would have been worse all round for the boy, the parents AND for the gorilla. Being known as the “Gorilla that killed a child” (albeit probably accidentally) would be bad for his rep and for all gorillas.

The killing of Harambe is a very sad situation for all involved. Condemning and judging, with little or no evidence is not helpful – time will reveal more details.

What really intrigues me is the extreme global outpour of concern for an individual gorillas death. Are all these same people equally concerned about the deaths of gorillas through habitat loss in their rainforests of central and western Africa, that happens all the time? All four types of gorilla are at their greatest risk of extinction, due to human beings actions that impact upon gorilla’s habitat.

I don’t think we can say “we” (I’m assuming us living in developed countries and in global terms, rich) have nothing to do with that. We buy and use products that contain metals mined and woods felled from these gorilla’s forests.

“We” as individuals, communities, companies and countries/governments can make deliberate decisions on what we buy, consume, use and support and we can demand better from companies and governments to produce our products in environmentally responsible and sustainable ways.

It is sad that one male gorilla had to be shot to ensure the survival of one human child. But that child was the same species as us – of course we place his life as a higher priority. That is a natural response. If people want #JusticeForHarambe then maybe that justice lies in a human awakening to the responsibility to proactively thinking about and changing how we treat the planet. We have an impact on other animal species, in this example, one of our closest living relatives, gorillas.

There is a reason I started writing this with Gorilla gorilla gorilla and Homo sapiens scientific names. We are just another species of animal that shares this planet with so many other living things. The interconnection and interdependence between all these species is real and these relationships and connections have enabled all life on this planet to evolve, come and go. Homo sapiens are having a huge impact on the health and diversity of life on this planet. If there is a healthy planet for species like gorillas to survive, then quite conveniently for us, there is a healthy planet for humans to survive too.

Peace out.