Unpopular Opinions On Gorillas and Wayward Kids

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 10.854% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So this weekend, a gorilla had to be shot because a four-year-old kid found its way into the gorilla’s enclosure.  (If you want details on “Why didn’t they tranquilize the gorilla instead of murdering it?”, read this Facebook note from a zookeeper; the upshot was that shooting darts into a gorilla is not an insta-knockout, and would probably piss off the kid-holding gorilla majorly before it passed out.)
And I have two thoughts on that one:
First off, there’s a lot of people calling for the parents’ heads on a stick – which I probably would have before I had kids.  I used to hear these tales of parents losing their kids at malls and sniff, “God, how did they lose track of their own children?”
Now I go, “My God, how do we not lose more kids?”
Kids have zero survival instincts.  They run away and don’t look back.  And in a vacuum, you could be a perfect guard to jail this irrational critter inside a cage of pure protection, but when you’re out and about you have to pay for the clothes you just bought or hold the elevator door for someone or even adjust your other kid’s diapers.
When you go to do that, sometimes the kid darts off into traffic because they saw a bug and Christ that is scary.
And I’m not saying that the parents weren’t negligent, because I don’t know all the facts about this, but it’s also possible the kid vanished and the parents were looking frantically for him while all this happened.
Maybe it is a case of stupid parents.  It could also equally easily be a case of “accidents happen with kids.”  And it sucks, but that’s the way the universe currently works: some parents have their kids squirm away into an elevator and are lucky enough to have a friendly face guiding the kid back to safety, other parents have their kids squirm away and fall into an open elevator shaft.
It’s possible these were slacker parents who raised an ill-disciplined kid; it’s equally possible the parents just had the worst possible outcome for the tragically common situation of Runaway Kid.
In the absence of better knowledge – and I’m sure news stories will fill in more details over the oncoming weeks – I’ll try to opt for kindness.
That said, an online friend of mine said, “I’m sorry, but I value the life of a four-year-old more than I do a gorilla.”
I’m sorry, but I don’t.
Look, man.  These gorillas are endangered.   As the zookeeper in the Facebook says, you put these gorillas out into the wild and they get poached.  I’m told there’s not enough of these gorillas left to fill a 747, and the zoo’s one of the few places left that can hold them safely.
Either way this went down, kid or gorilla, it was going to be a tragedy where a living creature who didn’t understand what was happening got killed for reasons that weren’t its fault.  And even though I am a human, I’m cold-eyed enough to say, “While I spent the weekend with an adorable almost-four-year-old girl who I adore, there are literally millions of four-year-old humans – while we’re down to a handful of gorillas because, as a race, we’d rather strangle an entire species than risk one human.
“And while I love children, if it’s down to one kid against a dwindling species, I choose the species.”
I suspect that’s a really unpopular thing for me to say, but this is a Kobayashi Maru of dilemmas: you have to 100% kill an endangered gorilla, or risk killing a child (as the gorilla might have gotten bored dragging the kid around and let the child go).  It’s gonna be horrid either way.  And I’m not saying we shouldn’t kill mountain lions running lose in human territories, or let our daughters be dragged off by rabid dogs.  Human lives matter.
I’m just of the opinion that at this point, if some human gets into the enclosure with all the endangered animals, the priority should be saving the endangered animal.  Because it’s not the animal’s fault, either.  And what they need to protected from are dumbasses like us.


  1. Lori
    May 31, 2016

    Hi Ferrett, I agree with your post. I’m a docent at the Columbus Zoo, and I promise you that they did not WANT to kill that gorilla (as I’m sure you know). I think I would also come down on the side of saving the gorilla but I understand and support the zoo’s actions – I cannot imagine the consequences to them if their attempt to act while saving the gorilla had resulted in the child’s death, and they could not take that risk.

  2. Lyn Belzer-Tonnessen
    May 31, 2016

    You’re entitled to that opinion. But I can’t help but suspect that your opinion would be different if the 4-year-old was beloved by you, personally.

    • TheFerrett
      May 31, 2016

      You can suspect, but… No. No, it wouldn’t. I’m remarkably cold about such things.
      Every time there’s a movie where the enemies go, “WE HAVE YOUR DAUGHTER HOSTAGE! WE WILL KILL HER UNLESS YOU HAND OVER THE WEAPON THAT WILL KILL MILLIONS!” I shout, “Dude, you can love your kid, but it’s fucking selfish to value one life over millions!”
      Spock taught me well.

      • Guest
        Jun 2, 2016

        I’ve buried a child. I’d cut the heart out of every gorilla on the planet to save my worst enemy that pain.
        You say you wouldn’t do the same, but I doubt it. I’ve read what you’ve written about Rebecca. Would you look at Rebecca’s parents in such a situation and say, “Your daughter should die horrifically so that the gorilla can live” having seen the pain they went through?

  3. Alexis
    Jun 1, 2016

    I agree with a lot of what you say, but if I had to choose between a kid who’s about to have his limbs ripped off and a gorilla, that gorilla’s going to die. It’s sad that they are endangered, and I’d hate to see them go extinct, but I’d never let one rip a four-year-old in pieces if I could stop it. Besides, imagine what would happen to that zoo if they’d done that. They’d be closed for months while an investigation took place, possibly face massive lawsuits and even worse publicity than they’re dealing with now. People might start hunting gorillas in the wild or vandalizing/murdering them in other zoos in revenge. It’s not worth it.

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