The Cincinnati Zoo Could Face Criminal Charges After Killing A Gorilla To Protect A Child

The Cincinnati Zoo shot and killed a 450-pound gorilla Saturday after a small child fell in its cage. People were outraged that the animal had to die because no one was adequately watching the kid, and now police are investigating potential criminal charges against the Cincinnati Zoo. Animal activists filed a federal negligence complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture against the zoo for the maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine for the death of the gorilla, named Harambe.

Officials decided to shoot the 17-year-old Western lowland silverback gorilla (an endangered species) because they thought the boy was in imminent danger after he climbed over a three-foot barrier and fell 15 feet into a moat in the cage. “That child’s life was in danger. People who question that don’t understand you can’t take a risk with a silverback gorilla — this is a dangerous animal,” said Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard at a news conference Monday. “Looking back, we’d make the same decision. The child is safe.” The boy was treated at a local hospital and released the same day.

However, the activists mourning Harambe’s death think it could have been avoided. “The failure of the Cincinnati Zoo to adequately construct this enclosure to protect both the public and the animal held prisoner there is a clear and fatal violation of the Animal Welfare Act,” Stop Animal Exploitation Now said in its complaint letter to the USDA.

There are plenty of questionable zoo practices — including the mere fact that they exist to keep animals in captivity — but Harambe’s death grabbed the nation’s attention. The Cincinnati Zoo could face serious repercussions if the Cincinnati Police Department finds it at fault for not adequately enclosing the gorilla’s habitat, though they initially didn’t file any charges.

A Change.org petition titled “Justice for Harambe” that garnered more than 360,000 signatures urged for Child Protective Services to investigate the child’s situation “in the interests of protecting the child and his siblings from further incidents of parental negligence” and encouraged the police to hold his parents responsible for the gorilla’s death. The controversy got so big even Donald Trump weighed in, saying at a press conference Tuesday that the zoo probably had no choice.

Public outcry around the ordeal was reminiscent of Cecil the lion’s death in October, although Cecil was killed by a grown ass man for sport. Obviously, killing endangered species is bad for the environment, but it’s not the worst thing going on in the world. Don’t get me wrong — it’s incredibly sad that an endangered gorilla died because a child wasn’t being properly watched at the zoo. At the same time though, I can’t stand that people get so up in arms about the death of animals while simultaneously ignoring massive human tragedies.

The people vigorously protesting Harambe’s death don’t seem to care that about 9 million Syrians have been displaced since March 2011, more than 700 migrants are either missing or dead after shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea in the past week, and the roughly 100,000 people living in Flint, Michigan still don’t have a lead-free water source (which is also an environmental problem). Serious issues threatening the lives of humans every day go ignored while people cry over a cute animal.

Like I said, Harambe’s death is sad (I’m not a heartless monster), but millions of human lives are more valuable than one animal life. It seems hypocritical to mourn the loss of a gorilla and not the lives of actual people.