By now most of the world has heard about the incident at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden involving Harambe, a silverback gorilla, and a three-year-old boy. As I listened, watched, and pondered the story my heart went out to the authorities at the zoo who were forced to make the difficult decision to put the endangered creature down.
As I’m sure with many people, my mind was flooded with questions. Why couldn’t they have tranquilized the animal instead of killing him? Where were the boy's parents or caretaker? How on Earth could a child breech the barriers of that exhibit? Of course, I took to the internet to for answers.
After hours of reading, my questions were answered. I now understand that Harambe reacting to a tranquilizer was too great a risk and why would anyone put a three-year-old child in danger over an animal. I understand witnesses overheard the boy saying he wanted to be inside the exhibit; his natural curiosity as beautiful as it is got the better of him. I understand that the zoo authorities probably made the right decision which is very unfortunate and saddens my heart beyond belief.
In addition to Cincinnati, there was a recent shark incident in Western Australia that yielded similar results. While surfing, 29-year-old Ben Gerring suffered severe injuries when mauled by a shark. It was reported that he lost his leg from just above the knee and remains in the hospital under critical care.
In response, authorities took to the waters and used a drum line to kill a shark without any assurance that it was the same animal that was involved in the Gerring incident. If one were to look deeply into the subject, I have no doubt they would find hundreds if not thousands of similar situations where an animal was killed due to some kind of threat it posed to a human.
In reality, it is our responsibility as humans to learn to adapt and live with these creatures. How can it be remotely appropriate for a human to venture into the natural habitat of a given animal and not expect a reaction? In the history of mankind millions of people have died due to battles over territory but yet we have different expectations of the natural instinct of an animal.
We are intelligent beings that have the ability to solve enormous problems in this world; animal rights need to be on the top of that list. The answer cannot be to kill, especially in the case of the shark. Like all animals, they maintain balance. It is the natural order of the animal kingdom. Simply put sharks are innocent bystanders of our presence in their environment.
They need us (as much as we need them, I might add). They need us to protect them from the uneducated, reactionary actions of people and the fallout of our existence in their world.
What is the lesson from the two recent incidents? The bottom line is humans and wildlife need to coexist. Considering we are ranked highest among species, it is our responsibility to control our existence to an acceptable degree. The question is how can we achieve such harmony?
One solution is to commit to safer alternative choices such as various shark deterrent methods that do not harm sharks, monitoring waters for shark sightings and simply following well known protocol when swimming in shark invested waters.
In order for governments to commit to such methods they need to hear from the communities they serve. Below are just a few links of organizations dedicated to petitioning governments to stop harmful methods of shark determent. Please get involved today by giving time or donations to the much needed cause.