If you’re a parent, you’ve probably experienced at some moment in time, losing your child for a few seconds or minutes during a public outing. It happens. You also know the range of emotions that go with that experience. Imagine the guilt you would feel if your toddler not only went missing, but fell into a gorilla pit at the zoo.
The unidentified family released its latest statement Wednesday morning. On Saturday, the 3-year-old boy fell into the enclosure and was dragged around its moat by the 17-year-old western lowland gorilla named Harambe. The zoo fatally shot the gorilla to rescue the boy.
The family said the boy is “still doing well” after his latest checkup.
“We continue to praise God for His grace and mercy, and to be thankful to the Cincinnati Zoo for their actions taken to protect our child,” the family said.
The family also expressed gratitude for the support they’ve received since Saturday.
“Some have offered money to the family, which we do not want and will not accept,” the family said. “If anyone wishes to make a gift, we recommend a donation to the Cincinnati Zoo in Harambe’s name.”
“The mother was standing next to a zoo exhibit and lost track of her child for perhaps a minute or so,” Ohio State University law professor Ric Simons said. “That has happened to almost every parent in the world in a public place.”
The Cincinnati Zoo has an open viewing area that was among the first of its kind and is now common in many zoos around the country.
The exhibit was at the forefront of zoos moving away from cages in favor of more realistic living environments and adopting a range of exhibits, from natural habitats behind glass walls to jungle-like settings separated from the public by hedges and bamboo fences.
“The exhibit is safe, the barrier is safe,” said zoo director Thane Maynard, who noted the exhibit is routinely checked by federal inspectors and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which also plans to investigate what happened.
The breach, the zoo director said, was the first time a visitor had entered the zoo’s Gorilla World, which opened in 1978 and was billed as the first “bar-less” outdoor gorilla habitat in the nation.
More than a million people condemned the parents online and more than a 130,000 people signed a Justice For Harambe Facebook page set up in the wake of his death.
One post said: “The zoos aren’t the problem. It’s the idiotic parents.”
As a parent I can say personally, it happens, even to those of us who are “good parents”. It was an accident. It was sad that Harambe was shot, especially since many believe Harambe was showing signs of protection towards the toddler. It’s hard to question whether shooting Harambe was the right thing to do. Under the circumstances, it’s good to see the child is recovering well.
How would you have felt if this was your child? How would you have felt about the zoo putting down a gorilla to save your child? One thing’s for certain, it’s hard to criticize unless you’ve been there.