Who Are We To Judge The Cincinnati Zoo Mother

Who Are We To Judge The Cincinnati Zoo Mother?

Yesterday news broke of an incident that occurred at the Cincinnati Zoo that involved a Gorilla being put down after a child fell into the enclosure. The world is furious with the mother of the child, as well as the zoo, for the death of the 17-year-old 400lb Gorilla named Harambe. But who are we to judge the Cincinnati Zoo mother?

Harambe, a Western Lowland Gorilla, is a critically endangered species, so I totally get the uproar. What I don’t understand is when did everyone suddenly become the perfect human, the perfect parent, the perfect member of society, that they can pass judgment onto another. To top things off, everyone is suddenly an animal expert too. After watching a video or two people have concluded that the Gorilla was actually trying to help the child and didn’t appear to want to cause harm to the child – a tranquilizer should have been used instead.

The internet is in an uproar with a mother because a Gorilla was killed after a child entered the enclosure. Who are we to judge the Cincinnati Zoo mother?

Who Are We To Judge The Cincinnati Zoo Mother?

Allegedly the child stated he wanted to go into the water. Allegedly the mother wasn’t watching the child. Allegedly the Harambe the Gorilla was going to do harm to the child and there was no other option but to shoot him, a decision not made lightly by the zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team. Allegedly the zoo has never had an issue like this in 38 years. There’s a lot of assumptions/allegations circling the internet about this incident. And we all know what happens when people assume things.

Supposedly this is a photo of the so-called barrier surrounding the enclosure protecting patrons from the exhibit.

The internet is in an uproar with a mother because a Gorilla was killed after a child entered the enclosure. Who are we to judge the Cincinnati Zoo mother?

How long do you think it would take a little one to squeeze through those two wires and slip into or down the bushes and into the enclosure?

I’m sorry to say there seems nothing safe about this. The way the barrier is described by the zoo makes it seem as if it’s a fool-proof safety rail with a wire mesh backing and endless yards of bushes. What I see is the perfect entry way for a small child to step through, trip on a bush and fall straight down into the enclosure. In fact I’m surprised this didn’t happen sooner.

The mother didn’t encourage her child to go into the enclosure, nor did she purposely put him in harm’s way. Could she have bent down to pick up something her child had dropped? Could she have been attending to the other child with her? A reader posted a screenshot of a witness account in which it says the boy just slipped away from the mother. Update: Here’s another posting of a witness account of the event.

I am happy to hear that the boy is doing well and came away unharmed. I am sorry that Harambe had to lose his life. But I beg of everyone, please do not persecute this mother for being a parent. Who are we to judge the Cincinnati Zoo mother? Parenting isn’t about being perfect, it’s about being present. She was present at that zoo with her children when she could have just as easily been sitting in her home while her children sat glued to the television screen.

A couple of years ago in the toddler proof house of all toddler proof houses, my toddler ruined my perfect parenting record. In what seemed like seconds she managed to take all hope of me winning the mama of the year award when she ate a laundry pod. If you’ve never made a parenting mistake you likely aren’t yet a parent. So let’s drop the judgments, the accusations of horrible parenting and be thankful it wasn’t you or your child in this situation. Who are we to judge the Cincinnati Zoo mother?

Mama E

Multitasking mama to 3 living in Miami. Blogging about parenting, lifestyle, cooking and traveling. Covering everything from diapers to dorm rooms. Ask me anything, I’ve done it all.

Comments (42)

  • My thoughts exactly, I also posted something similar to this on my wall. I was upset to hear all the judgemental people going on and had to remove it for my sanity. I also posted a pic as I was just at the Cincinnati zoo 3 weeks ago. There is no wire mesh only a metal rail and two small strings of wire that’s all and the shrub is about a foot deep before drop off into the moat. Mere seconds is all it took.

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    • Mama E

      Thank you for sharing. The news and Zoo Director have made it seems like it would take hours to get through the barriers.

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      • No child in 83 years breached that exhibit but this one child did. The facts speak for themselves. They were not at Walmart where you might lose your child for a few seconds, they were at the Zoo where wild animals live. Children should be watched when they are out in public places esp a 3 year old. Does this mother lose sight of her child near a busy intersection too and expect the cars just to not run over her child.

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        • Such a perfect mother ,then why would you take your children into an area where there are Wild animals anyway ,the moment you have entered is the moment where anything could happen ,all Zoo,s are safe ? . they are full of frustrated ,angry ,imprisoned animals ,a Zoo is not a playground it is a prison for wild animals !

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    • Ask yourself this, Kemberly, would you go to the zoo, a public space on a holiday with FOUR small children, one of whom was an infant that needed to be held and one of whom was the rambunctious and impulsive three-year old? Would you do this by yourself? Four small children? And do you see that sign Kemberly,it says “Be alert.” Zoos have warning signs, rule signs everywhere. This enclosure is not designed for toddlers and toddlers are not supposed to be on there own there—it had over 1.6 million visitors for 38 years–not a single breach because people either carry their 3 year olds or take them by the hand. You don’t go to the Grand Canyon and expect it to be “child-proof,” you don’t go to the the store, a library, or anywhere in the world outside your home and expect it to be child-proof, so stop placing responsibility on society for your kids (not that I mean yours). She showed poor judgement from the outset, very poor judgement, but she and other parents do this all the time. Usually they end up paying the price, but in this case, this woman’s very poor judgement led to the killing of a rare, endangered zoo animal. It will never be replaced. She got pilloried, I agree, and it went too far, but she got herself on facebook, identified herself as the mom and then showed no remorse, no apology, no recognition of the fact that she had some measure of responsibility in all this–
      accidents happen? Yeah, when you go out to a zoo filled with dangerous animals with four small children, you bet!

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  • You are right. My first thought was…how dare that mom let her kids find it’s way in there….but looking at that picture you posted…probably wasn’t that hard. I want to blame someone….but I shouldn’t. :/ That poor family! Good story, Erica!

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  • I say He who makes no mistakes should throw the first stone. None of us are perfect and things happen to all of us. Little ones move very fast. They can be into something in a blink of an eye. It is to bad they didn’t use a tranquilizer instead of killing this animal. They too did what they thought was best at the time. Thank you so much for sharing

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  • While I agree that people shouldn’t be passing judgment on the mother, I don’t think you have to be an animal expert to know that the gorilla was not trying to harm the child. If he wanted to, he could have easily killed him, but he didn’t. He was clearly being gentle with the child. A tranquilizer definitely would have been better than killing him.

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    • ” I don’t think you have to be an animal expert to know that the gorilla was not trying to harm the child.”

      No, you have to be a special pleader. Doesn’t matter if he WAS trying to harm him, dragging him around the enclosure and slamming him into the wall could cause serious harm.

      “If he wanted to, he could have easily killed him, but he didn’t. He was clearly being gentle with the child. A tranquilizer definitely would have been better than killing him.”

      He was clearly being gentle when he dragged him across the enclosure at breakneck speed? Wait…what? And you’re right, he hadn’t killed him…yet. That was the point in taking him out….to make sure he didn’t kill the kid. And unless you can read gorilla minds, you have no idea whether he would have harmed the kid or not. Know what would have guaranteed he harmed the kid? Shooting him with a tranquilizer. The gorilla likely would have assumed it came from the kid, and would have responded aggressively. Using a tranq most likely would have ended up with a dead kid. Real life ain’t The Jungle Book.

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  • I agree as well a tranquilizer should have been used, there should have been a better barrier, you know after the mother sues there will be a better barrier no doubt. No one is perfect accidents happen all of the time and this is one plain and simple. I love animals but a human life is more important in my book.

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  • I agree. It’s a crazy and crispy situation. Better safe than sorry. This woulda been a great time for a kid leash. No lie.

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    • It would have taken four child leashes, probably three since she was carrying the infant. Taking four small children to the zoo like that is a recipe for disaster.

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  • I think to that a childs life is more important but they could have used a tranquilizer on the animal. Anyone with a child knows or should know how fast in a split second they can be gone.The barrier does not look safe at all to me. But kids always want to get closer. Sorry for the animal but glad the child is safe.

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  • Question: Was the mother alone in watching the 3 children and a baby, and if so, we as mothers know that it’s almost impossible to watch 3 children and a baby at a zoo, fair or any public place. If she was alone, why in the world would she go without help, I sure wouldn’t, because I know something like this would likely happen. It’s a shame that the gorilla had to be killed, but if it were my child, I would have shot it myself.

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    • Mama E

      I haven’t read anything directly, but I’ve heard reports that the father was present. From what I read made it appear as if she was alone with the 4 yo and child in stroller. It’s possible the father was at the zoo but maybe in another area with the other 2 children.

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  • I stumbled across this posting while looking for a picture of the barrier . I was actually at the exhibit with my nephews immediately before it happened . The mother was on her phone when I was there . She was 30 feet away from the child . My attention was drawn to her because the child basically pushed my nephew aside to get closer to the enclosure and then he started screaming back at the mother . When I saw that she was on her phone I just shook my head and moved on . I did see a girl with her but no other children . No sign of a father either and if he was close he sure didn’t respond to his son . I was still in the exhibit when he fell because I heard the screams but didn’t know until later what happened . I have talked to the police but have declined talking to the news . I am so grateful he is ok but so angry that other families are scarred by this . I can’t imagine seeing it happen . I walk away from this accepting it’s an accident but even in an accident someone is at fault . Is it the child ? No of course not . Is it the zoo ? I don’t think so . I stood at that fence with my 3 year old nephew that same day . It would be nearly impossible for him to breach the entire barrier of thorny bushes and wire . The mother ? Well I can only comment on what I saw . She was not watching her child . Period . 30 feet away and on a phone at a very crowded zoo is negligent . It doesn’t take a perfect parent to see that

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    • Mama E

      Thank you for your comment Lola and sharing what you witnessed that day.

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    • Lola, many of the reports said that she had four small children, one of whom was an infant. You didn’t see any of them? Could they have been with their father?

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      • The only child I saw was maybe a 6-7 year old girl . There was a stroller next to her but it was empty and honestly it could have belonged to someone else . Local reports say the dad was not there and the 911 calls they just released confirm that . She says she needs to call him . Granted he could be elsewhere in the park and she needed to call him .

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    • Thank you for sharing this. In my opinion , it IS a parents’ fault – barriers there are not to be climbed over or crawled under, before visiting zoo that should be explained to children. If a mother knows her kid is a bit of not-standing-at-one-place-a-second, please DO HOLD HIS HAND at least next to the enclosure.
      What I will never understand that boy’s mother NEVER expressed any remorse or sorrow for the death of the endangered animal, it is not OK, not from the human point of view, not from the point of view of setting values in her kids for the future. Any life is important, of an animal as well.

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      • I agree Saba. Her statement on Facebook is deeply disturbing and so revealing. I don’t think it has occurred to her that she did something wrong in not paying attention to her child or that an endangered species had been put down, or that the zoo staff have been in hell. God was watching her boy while with the gorilla, but she doesn’t bother to ask why God put it there in the first place. She isn’t a thoughtful person and her values are really troubling. I think that if she had not made that facebook post, many of us would not be judging her actions right now.

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    • Lola,
      Why one earth don’t you take this VITAL information to the police?? They could of used this when investigating that reckless woman. Now she walks away free with that big dumb smile on her face. No one will be charged over this and I am SICK to my stomach over it all 🙁

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      • I did talk to the police .. Several times .

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  • All I really can say is that I am grateful that the child is alive!

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  • Agreed! We shouldn’t judge, it doesn’t help anything. This was horrible for everyone involved.

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  • It’s funny how so many people here who have no experience or knowledge about tranquilizers believe they know better than those who have trained and have experience in using them. A tranquilizer would have guaranteed the kid died. The second the gorilla felt the sting, he would have lashed out at the kid in defense, believing the pain was being caused by him. You’d have a dead boy on your hands. It’s sad the gorilla had to be put down, but stop engaging in nonsense.

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  • “But I beg of everyone, please do not persecute this mother for being a parent.”

    I don’t think that is what is happening. I think people are upset because she was a *bad* parent. The persecution comes because her bad parenting lead to the killing of an innocent animal.

    “Who are we to judge the Cincinnati Zoo mother?”

    Who am I to judge? An attentive, loving, vigilant disciplinarian who knows that accidents happen and so who plans and acts accordingly. I am the father of a 14-year old daughter who has taken on the ultimate responsibilities of parenting. I have taken my daughter to Walt Disney World, to San Francisco, to Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, etc., and have never let her out of my sight at any time during those trips. As other folks have noted elsewhere, there are two-legged predators everywhere, and a parent who is not vigilant is a bad parent. Period. My wife and I planned the number of children we would have, taking into account all sorts of things like living arrangements, future college expenses, etc. So who am I to judge? A non-shitty parent, for starters.

    “Parenting isn’t about being perfect…”

    Agreed, though I would assert it is about doing your best, which I have always equated as striving for perfection. These means doing your best every step along the way – from planning your parenthood to disciplining your children and having behavioral expectations to recognizing that we all – parents and children alike – will make mistakes, and trying to minimize them and their effects.

    “…it’s about being present. She was present at that zoo with her children when she could have just as easily been sitting in her home while her children sat glued to the television screen.”

    Sorry, but I disagree 100%. Had she been “present,” then by definition her kid wouldn’t have gotten into the exhibit. She might not have been in front of the tube, but she was on her smart phone, which, in my experience, is even more addling that an good old TV. Plus it has the drawback of making that level of distraction portable.

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  • We can’t baby proof life so parents don’t have to parent. Let’s stop the lies about this being gorilla vs kid. This watching your kids vs dead gorilla. And you know as well as anyone that if this had been a school trip and the kid JUMPED into the enclosure than you would not be saying “poor teacher” but rather “off with her head”. But parents always want excuses to not have to do their jobs. A zoo is NOT A PLAYGROUND. It is a place to watch and learn about wild animals. It is the parents responsibility (as it says on the ticket) to ensure their own safety.

    Lastly. There are never enough barriers for stupid.

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  • None of us know what we would do in that situation. Accidents happen and although it turned out ok it is sad that the gorilla had to be put down.

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  • There are two other fences beyond the hedge row that is pictured. As well as a 12 inch wide concrete wall before getting to the moat. Our zoo just had, and passed without problems, a federal health and safety inspection.

    Turning to take pictures and have a child put their hand in your pocket while doing so isn’t being mindful of a child who has declared intent to enter a gorilla enclosure and swim with the animals.

    I am happy the child is alive. I wish that Harambe and his species hadn’t been pushed to the edge of extinction, so that they are now housed in cages in an attempt to save them from disappearing. It is tiring to deal with people acting as if parents are never to blame for the raucus children I see out and about every single day…climbing over restaurant chairs and booths, jumping on furniture in waiting rooms, playing in indoor fountains, wandering unchaperoned in the aisles of the grocery store and department store, while the parents blissfully carry on without a care in the world. The same parents will cheerfully curse you out if you attempt to point out that their “precious snowflakes” are causing a commotion and might injure someone or be injured themselves. This incident was due to parental inattentiveness.

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  • I do don’t want to blame the mother in all this but she makes it hard to do. Her child repeatedly told her he wanted to swim in the gorilla moat. Instead of taking the child away from there, which she should have done quickly, she got distracted and he did exactly what he earned he would do. Now an endangered animal is dead. Unfortunately it is 100% her fault. She had bad judgment. Don’t take your kids to dangerous places unless you can watch them closely at all times.

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  • I agree with you.

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  • I absolutely agree!! We all have parenting moments we are not proud of and kiddos are adventurous and so super fast!! The whole story is just very sad!! I don’t think that the fence at the zoo should be able to be “snuck through” at all!! Ours at the Milwaukee zoo are a wire mesh that a child would have to physically climb over…. which I hope anyone would notice! I hope that the zoo is taking this lesson and learning from it… Im sure a safety report is being done and investigated. It is truly awful what happened to the gorilla but I don’t think there was another way in which the ending would have been happy! The right choice was made and people should stop judging yest ye be judged themselves!

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  • I am grateful that a terrible incident like this one hasn’t happened in the past. The zoo should really have more wire mesh or a thicker barrier between the people and the animals.

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  • OMG.. are you people serious?? Due to a NEGLIGENT, UNATTENTIVE mother, Harambe, a Silver Back is now CRITICALLY ENDANGERED!! People need to put their damn phones down and PAY ATTENTION.. either that or DON’T BREED!! This makes me so angry!! This woman has a RIGHT to be JUDGED! And do some research on the father.. has a list of felonies longer including armed robbery, narcotics AND kidnapping!! These parents need to be thrown in jail!!!

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  • When you become a parent it is your responsibility to teach your children .. .. respect… responsibility .. rules .. boundaries … you dont go to a dangerous place and not pay attention when your child could be snatched by a psycho … or climb a fence and fall into a moat …. you keep an eye on your kids at all times ..the fact THAT he stated he wanted to swim with the gorilla should have been enough of a warning for her to keep an extra eye on him …. a split second can mean life or death … someone runs off with your child or accidents happen … if you cant be a responsible parent .. then by golly dont have kids because it comes with the territory … if you cant keep up with the ones you have … get your tubes tied … this woman had no business turning her back on her child ….. period

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  • I am sorry but this kind of excuse making is just wrong . Everyone and I mean everyone has to be responsible for their actions . I raised 3 rambunctious boys and no endangered species ever died as a result . Billions of parents have raised children without getting gorillas shot. Yes we have all made mistakes in parenting but it is usually just our own children that are effected . The whole world is not responsible for our children’s safety. We as parents are . The world should not have to be childproof because we chose to have children.

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  • Too many people spend a lot of time on their mobile phones and are oblivious to whats going on around them People seem to have the phone glued to their ears these days. If you take your kids to places then its the parents job is to look after them. That mother clearly wasn’t looking after her child. An eye witness said she was on her mobile and not watching him. He had already said he wanted to swim with the gorillas so why didn’t she get off her phone and watch the boy. The zoo never had an incident in 38 years with millions of adults and kids visiting the zoo but everyone is quick to blame the safety of the zoo now. The blame in my eyes lies solely on the mother not paying attention to her child and spending it on her mobile phone. Don’t forget an INNOCENT GORILLA got shot and killed because of her incompetence. A goriila who is an endangered species that they used to reproduce to keep the the species from becoming extinct. A Gorilla who has been at the zoo for 17 years, and lost his life because a mother was chatting on her phone and wasn’t watching her child. ASK YOURSELVES THIS: If the child died everyone would be blaming the parent for neglecting her child because she spent time chatting on her phone and not watching him. BUT because he didnt people are saying blame the zoo and that the mother is only human and accidents happen

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    • Mama E

      If the child died, I surely wouldn’t be “blaming” the mother because that would only compound the tragedy for someone who would likely be already blaming herself.

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  • Really, I can not judge her. I don’t know the circumstances, but the whole thing is a tragedy.

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  • I am slow to react to things sometimes. This seems to have blown over, yet I keep thinking about it. I can’t agree with you, the child’s mother showed very poor judgement and the loss to the entire world is enormous. I say give her hell, sorry.

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  • I am not blaming the parent for the kid getting into the pit. My thoughts are if we leave wild animals where God intended them to be this kind of thing would not have happened. Animals aren’t happy living in zoo;s and in cages. they need to be in the wild where they belong.

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