I am about to piss off a LOT of people, so read at own risk.

Yes, it’s about Hakambe and the incident at the Cincy Zoo. Yes, I am going to be excoriating the parents. No, I am not pulling punches. You get exactly this chance to close out of this post.

Still here? OK. You asked for it.

I won’t link to any of the news stories. Simply because I don’t want to give any more exposure to this entire thing apart from my thoughts.

And my thoughts are succinctly summed up as follows:

Please stop using the BS cop-out of “kids will be kids”.

This exact same line and its variations is used to absolve people of their responsibility for their actions. How many times we’ve heard the line “Boys will be boys” used when someone attempts rape? Too many. Or vandalism? Same damned thing. “Kids will be kids” is not only no different, but it’s a precursor. Every “Boys will be boys” is always preceded by “Kids will be kids” and lazy parents who don’t do their jobs.

Stop using the “Kids will be kids” excuse to absolve parents of their responsibility of actually parenting their children.

The gorilla did not have to die at all. The kid should not have been anywhere near the inside of the enclosure. If a child doesn’t understand that he or she should not climb into enclosures with zoo animals, then the child is too young to be at a zoo.

And it’s the parents’ responsibility to make sure their child doesn’t go where they don’t need to be. The zoo is not and should never be a babysitter. The world is not child-friendly and absolutely no parent should expect the world to be sanitized for their child.

Don’t give me the whole “You don’t have kids, so what right do you have to speak?” line. Stop that right now. I didn’t just materialize out of nowhere, I was raised. And when I was bitten by a dog when I was 4, my parents didn’t raise hell to get the dog put down! They gave me hell for harassing a German Shepherd mix twice my size. This is how I learned respect for animals, because I learned that they can, and will, attack when provoked. I avoided dogs for years because of that – even though I love big dogs – but guess what: lesson learned! And same when I was maybe 2, and got scratched by our cat – same thing! That’s how I learned what cats do and don’t tolerate. Bites heal. Scratches heal. But guess what stays: the memory that sometimes you just don’t touch a dog or a cat unless they want to be touched.

The gorilla acted exactly as he would’ve acted in nature when threatened or intruded upon and, like it as not, a strange child inside his safe haven was exactly that: an intrusion. A threat. This is exactly how they would react in nature. And yes, the gorilla was going to do serious damage, or possibly kill, the kid. This is one of the situations where there was no good way out. If you watch the video, you can see that Hakambe was definitely ready to do major damage.

Please save me the “It was a baby!” line too – one, that kid was old enough to stand up on his own two feet, so definitely not a baby, and definitely old enough to know better than to get into that enclosure. Two: you’re expecting an animal to behave with the same intellectual acuity as a human – that’s a fallacy. Gorillas are unquestionably intelligent beings, but they are most certainly not humans, even if raised by them. What a nonthreatening child is to you, a gorilla sees as an intruder and/or a danger. To Hakambe, that child was an intruder and a threat.

The ethnicity of the child has been brought up in the discussion, and I need to ask you this: how is the child’s race or ethnicity even slightly relevant to the discussion or to the question of where his parents were when he climbed into the enclosure? The fact still remains that the child went where he had no business being and the parents were not watching him. I don’t know the ethnicity of the child or the parents, and frankly am not asking that question. I don’t give a fuck if the child was black or white. I want to know: what were the parents doing that their child managed to get away from them and get into an enclosure with a fully grown male silverback gorilla without anyone noticing the kid was getting in there?

To throw the ethnicity of the child, and comparisons how a gorilla’s life is more or less important than human lives, into the discussion is a red herring. It has nothing the hell to do with the question at hand, and you can debate it to hell and back and it would still have nothing to do with the question at hand. The question here is, once again: how did the kid get into the enclosure and where were the parents?

It’s the same question I would ask regardless of the ethnic origins of the child. I won’t engage in the “which life is more important?” contest. But I will ask very stringently, as I’m doing now, why was this completely preventable event not prevented?

The parents have failed miserably in their responsibility of actually parenting their child. Bottom line.

Here’s a related Question You Will Not Like: Why exactly is it that whenever a kid harasses an animal, the animal always suffers first?

Here’s an exercise. Go to an animal shelter and ask how many cats and dogs end up there because they “attacked” a child? Know this: they didn’t “attack” anyone: they wanted the kid to quit harassing/abusing/hitting them and retaliated as they always will when their patience ends. You see those videos online all the time: a baby riding on the back of a Labrador like it’s a horse. A child slapping a cat and then the cat fires back and claws up the kid’s face. Seriously: Stop. That. Now. It’s not cute. Do not make those videos, do not post them online. Ever. Your irresponsible parenting and irresponsible pet ownership should not be the reason that animals end up abandoned at the shelter or put down. If you cannot teach your child not to harass animals, then you certainly shouldn’t have a pet, and your capacity as a parent is also in question. Sorry, not sorry.

What you, and the rest of the world, must understand is that absolutely no animal will ever defy its nature based on its environment, and absolutely no animal will tolerate harassment, abuse, or strangers. When the tiger at Ziegfried & Roy attacked while in rehearsal, some years ago, everyone clutched their collective pearls – why? It’s a tiger! It’s not a house cat, and no amount of circus living or training or being around people will make it stop being a tiger. The poor animal had enough and vented its frustration in a way that tigers always do: by attacking.

Same thing with this one idiot who got into a lion enclosure with a Bible because he thought God would protect him. The lions, of course, did exactly as they did with Christians in the Roman Empire. Why? They don’t give a shit if the person in the enclosure is a Christian or not: they just see meat.

You’ve also seen the story of the family who “rescued” a bison calf, who ended up being put down because the herd wouldn’t accept him back. Why? Human scent. A calf had to die because idiotic people thought they knew better than nature does.

That is never the case.

Stop. Messing. With nature. And stop expecting nature to bend to your will because you’re the Almighty Human (/eyeroll), or the animal is in a zoo, or you think your god will protect you. Stop expecting animals to change what they are just because they’re in a zoo behind closed doors. Nature can kill you in a million different ways, and if you think your child is in any way exceptional? Pleased deflate your ego now.

So next time your child yanks at a cat’s tail and the cat will give it the claw-stripe treatment? It’s your fault, parents. Not the child’s – but yours. A child’s behavior is a direct reflection of the job that the parents do parenting their children. Don’t blame the cat for its natural reaction – blame your child for eliciting that reaction out of the cat, and blame yourself for not properly teaching your child how to touch animals and how to recognize when animals don’t want to be touched.

The rest of the world, whether other people or animals, should not have to suffer for parents’ inability to parent their child.

What’s done is done. Hakambe was shot in order to protect the child – OK, yes, I get that. And there is no question in the fact that the child would have died, had this not happened. But again: where were the parents? And again: why did they not watch their child? And again: how did the child get into an enclosure without anyone seeing? Because I don’t buy for one. second. that absolutely no one saw the child climbing in. Not between the cameras and the personnel on site.

It may take a village to raise a child, but complete strangers working in a zoo certainly did not sign up to be that ‘village’. When you take your kids anywhere, they are your responsibility first. Not the zookeepers’. Not the security personnel’s. Not the strangers’ on the street or in the park. Yours. If you made them, then you’re responsible for teaching them how to be a decent person, and none other.

Please remember that the next time your child gets a scratch or a bite because they were harassing an animal.

K.G.

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