Was Harambe threatening the child who fell into his enclosure? Zookeepers at the Cincinnati Zoo shot the rare silverback gorilla because based on the gorilla’s behavior, they concluded he was a threat to the boy’s life.
But Binti Jua, another gorilla faced with the same scenario, behaved very differently.
Videos of each situation show Harambe’s and Binti’s actions. Binti, a female silverback who was raised in captivity, saved a little boy who fell into her zoo’s gorilla enclosure in 1996. She still lives at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, where the near tragedy took place.
Harambe wasn’t threatening when he was a baby being raised, like Binti, in captivity. Yet, his life ended tragically.
The Smithsonian National Zoo calls the silverback gorilla a peaceful beast who never attacks unless provoked. However, the institution also says an adult male leader like Harambe might kill infants not related to him. The Smithsonian also cautions that their observations should be used only as a guide because behaviors can vary from one silverback to the other.
Whether Harambe considered the 4-year-old boy an unrelated infant will never be known.
Harambe’s “threatening” actions, though, are being scrutinized and analyzed by experts and casual observers everywhere.
The Daily Mail suggests Harambe was protecting the child. The British website posted the video that also, however, clearly shows the 450 lb. Harambe forcefully yanking the boy from one end of the enclosure to the other.
The Mail also cites Binti Jua as an example of gorillas being capable of saving helpless human children. But the female Binti’s behavior, as shown in the ’96 video, was not the same as the male Harambe’s.
Harambe’s threatening actions, says Jack Hannah, gave zoo officials little choice. Hannah, the director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, has dealt with gorillas for 35 years. What he saw on the Harambe video convinced him the animal was not entirely friendly to the boy.
“That gorilla was upset,” Hannah told Entertainment Weekly. He noted that though he himself loves gorillas, the choice between an animal life and a human life is a simple one, especially when the human stands no other chance of surviving on his own.
“I’ve seen them take a green coconut, which you can’t even bust open with a sledgehammer, and squish it,” Hannah said of gorillas. Zoo director Thomas Maynard also pointed out the threat of unintentional injury to the boy from being hauled across the concrete enclosure.
Harambe’s threatening posture wasn’t seen in Binti, though. A still unnamed 3-year-old boy fell into Binti’s enclosure at the Brookfield Zoo in August, 1996. The female gorilla carried both the unconscious boy and her own infant to safety, away from the threat the other gorillas posed.
“In a remarkable show of maternal care, she cradled the child and carried him to an entrance where staff could safely reach him,” the Mail wrote.
Binti’s unwavering care of her uninvited guest can be seen on the video.
WATCH: Horror at the zoo – Jack Hannah talks about what happened when a child fell into an animal enclosure. https://t.co/ppvIRm1W2h
— Good Morning America (@GMA) May 30, 2016
Harambe’s threatening behavior, though, came in a couple of bursts of energetic action. The gathered crowd, who did not have time to analyze or rationalize the gorilla’s intent, reacted instantly. They gasped and cried out in horror. Zoo director Thomas Maynard was quoted as saying Harambe was acting erratically, possibly out of confusion.
The Harambe tragedy is being investigated to see if the Cincinnati Zoo could have done anything differently. The boy suffered non life-threatening injuries, including a concussion. It was unclear if the boy’s concussion came from the fall, or from being flung by Harambe across the concrete enclosure.
But Harambe’s threatening behavior, that of a confused gorilla being a gorilla, got the innocent beast killed.
[Photo by David Carroll/Shutterstock Images]