May 30

My kid would never fall into a gorilla pit..and other lies we tell ourselves.

Cincinnati-Zoo-Gorilla-HarambeThis past weekend,  a terribly unfortunate incident was reported at the Cincinnati Zoo – a four year old boy fell into the Gorilla enclosure, and the Zoo authorities had to shoot the Gorilla to save the boy’s life.

When I heard about this news item for the first time, I myself was at D.C.’s Smithsonian National Zoo with my four year old, and this is possibly why I feel so strongly about this, and couldn’t resist writing this post.

My initial reaction to the news was of shock – shock that a four year old fell into the enclosure, shock that the Zoo authorities did not find any other way of keeping the boy safe.

I felt like something could have been done – the Zoo authorities could have gone in, the animal could have been tranquilized, just something, something other than shooting.

But as I read more (and I read A LOT) about the incident, I felt that the Zoo authorities had done what they could have – they tried distracting (didn’t work), they considered the tranquilizer (but apparently it would have taken some time to come into effect, and the child would not have been safe). I am still unsure about why people were not sent in, but that’s not the point here.

At the end of the day, they (the Zoo authorities) placed a human life over an animal’s, and that led to wide-spread social media outrage.

What is that you ask?

Oh well, the phenomena where the very-perfect-people-who-never-make-any-mistakes decide to come on the internet, and preach to the imperfect-rest on how to live their lives. 

The Outrage Business

Before I continue, let me make one thing clear, I am not playing the parent’s defense attorney here. I completely agree that they should have been more careful. Yes, it is difficult and exhausting to handle over-active four year olds’ (I do it on a daily basis, so I would know!), but that’s what we as parents have signed up for. Caution and attention was required, and was clearly lacking.

However I don’t agree to statements like these that made the rounds of the inter-webs –

These parents should have all of their children removed from their custody. 

The Zoo authorities should have let the child die, would have been fitting punishment to the stupid kid and lazy parent. At any rate, the kid will grow to be as careless, stupid and lazy as his parent, so hardly a loss.

Four year olds’ aren’t endangered. And can be replaced in as little as 4 years and 9 months. Why kill an endangered species for them?

I don’t even know how to appropriately and adequately respond to this kind of vitriol, but I think that –

Unless and until you’ve raised kids who’ve never got into trouble, never got hurt, were never out of sight, or did anything you weren’t fully aware of, you have no business vilifying someone else when it happens to them.

Yes, we all have our opinions, but I am sure there are more civil, or I should say more human ways of expressing them. Saying that the parents should have been more attentive is one thing, but passing judgement on the parent’s character, capability, and intention is a totally different thing.

Also, hypocrisy. The people who are so concerned about the gorilla’s life, are totally game to gamble away the child’s life as a “fitting” punishment to the ‘stupid’ child and ‘careless’ parent.

I am just so horrified at this. I wonder what moral high ground these people stake claim to when they decide to roll the dice on a child’s life.

Would they have said the same thing if it was their child? And please, let’s not go the route of – my kid would never fall into a gorilla pit, because I am an attentive parent.

Yes, probably that would have never happened with the majority of us. But if we are being completely honest with ourselves, we will admit to many instances when our child has been in harm’s way (nothing as terrible as this, but still) and we have gotten lucky.

We as parents should know better, and instead of spewing venom on these parents and the child, we should be thankful that nothing this terrifying happened to us during one of those times when we didn’t have our eyes on our kid.

And in case you don’t have kids yet, or have never dealt with a four year old, please don’t judge on hypothetical grounds. You don’t know what you don’t know.

However, if you still  feel compelled to criticize and condemn, I sincerely wish you save your response to this incident, and reflect on it when you do have a four year old and he/she gets hurt due to “neglect” (because, believe you me, it will happen – gorilla pit or not!).

I personally feel that the prime responsibility/blame lies with the Zoo authorities, they should build these enclosures well, to ensure safety of both – the people and the animals. I hope that this serves as a lesson to them and other Zoos.

As I wrap this post up, I would just like to say this –

We certainly cannot gamble a life away on the basis of that moment.

Wishing you love and light.



  1. That’s a very heartfelt post and I completely completely agree. That’s exactly how I felt. It was sad and very very unfortunate that the Gorilla had to be shot but then what were the options? And people who say their kid would never have been in that place really don’t know what they are talking about. The thing is accidents do happen.
    Beat About the Book recently posted…Me Before You – A ReviewMy Profile

  2. Deep thoughts here, Shantala. Yes, people’s reactions reek of hypocrisy. It’s unfortunate that a gorilla had to die, but this nonsense of self-righteousness that’s become even more rampant with the explosion of social media is disturbing.

    Let’s spare a thought for the mother of the child and the zoo authorities who must be coming in for flak online everyday.

  3. I am equally outraged by the vitriol against the parents. I was moved enough to tweet that the “people” condemning the parents and foresaking the child have lost their humanity. But I also think that even judging whether the parents should have been more attentive is too much. We weren’t there. Even the most attentive parents on the planet can lose sight of a kid for a second. Giving your child your full attention is hard enough when you have only one child. When you have more than one child, it’s literally impossible. Zoos invite small children onto their property. It is foreseeable that small children can get around enclosures and it is the legal duty of the zoo to ensure children can’t get hurt while visiting.

    Even though we may disagree about whether the parents should have been more attentive or not, I love that you posted this. The only way to combat the online anti-parent vitriol is to spread more online material like your post. Good job!

    • Yeah parent-bashing is so common these days. And the sad thing is – many of the people involved in such bashing are parents. One would think they would know better.

      I really do hope the zoos take this as a lesson and ensure enclosure safety for both – the people and the animals.

      Thank you for stopping by. 🙂
      Shanaya Tales recently posted…May Wrap Up (Books and Movies) #FridayReadsMy Profile

  4. I whole heartedly agree with your stance. It was an unfortunate accident and the reactions to it have been numbing. People judging parents and young kids blindly, without experience or applying common sense are getting way too common in the era of social media where voicing these is getting all the more easier.
    I totally agree with you that the Zoo authorities need to take lesson from this and build better enclosures while the rest of the world learns the lesson that accidents can happen anywhere, any time and with anyone ( including them).
    My Era recently posted…Letting GoMy Profile

  5. Shantala! Great post. Keep more of them coming. What a beautiful and thoughtful way to put your point across. Not too harsh, not too much bashing but still getting the point across so correctly. Keep it up! Btw, we were also at a zoo this last weekend and it terrifies me to even think of a possibility of my child being in any pit. So sorry that an animal had to lose its life for the zoo authorities to provide better security. My heart goes out to that innocent life lost.
    Nidhi recently posted…Palak PaneerMy Profile

  6. You know what…my 4yo could just as well have fallen into the enclosure. Any parent who says otherwise is either lying or has such rigid military-like discipline systems that that kid probably asks permission before drinking water.
    It’s unfortunate that the gorilla had to die; but such is life. If the kid had been attacked, you would have heard these same people tear the gorilla apart

    People need to stop judging. But alas, that’s not going to happen. Powerful post, Shantala
    Sid recently posted…Confessions of a Hotel KleptomaniacMy Profile

  7. I am not a Mum but I totally agree with you. When I first heard the news – my reaction was Oh! Nothing more or less. The zoo authorities did what they could do best to keep the child safe and the parents, they are also humans. With a 4yo – active or not, things like this can happen. We can’t judge them for this.
    Powerful post Shantala. I am glad you wrote about this.
    Parul recently posted…A Decade of Love..My Profile

  8. My first thought when I read the news today was- why didn’t they just shoot tranquilizer darts at the gorilla? And then I read the point which you have mentioned. And sending another Zoo official into the enclosure just doesn’t make sense.
    Shooting the gorilla must have been the most difficult decision made by them, and I don’t think the zoo officials should be judged for making the decision. However, they must learn from this freak incident, and put up some more safety measures.
    Amazing post, Shantala ?

  9. That comment about a 4 year old child not being endangered because they are easily replacable in 4 years and 9 months – now does this make sense? We can say a 100 things after the situation lapses but can we say our minds would perfectly function when any emergency strikes?
    Just now, I saw on the facebook page of Netmums about thousands signing the petition against the stupid parents whose child fall in the Gorilla’s pit.

  10. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here… Unfortunately a tragic incident occurred and decision was to be made. I’ve been seeing bash the parents in this situation as well as bashing the zoo for their decision, and really and truthfully, unless you’ve been in that situation you really couldn’t comment… And even then, every situation is different, everyone’s reaction is different. You really don’t know until you’re put in that situation yourself.

    Accidents happen.

    You thoughts wrapping up this post should be put in to action by all of us a little more often, I think. Great post!
    Jade @ Reading With Jade recently posted…BOOK TALK | The Use of TBRMy Profile

  11. I read that the child had already informed his mother about his intention to enter the enclosure and she still did not take him away from that area and failed to pay much attention to him. And that is not okay I feel. Also what was she doing for so long? It was not a fraction of a second thing, it would have taken him a few minutes to enter. I have seen many careless parents who let their kids run amok in malls or even shops, so I don’t think I sympathize with the mother completely.
    Avada Kedavra recently posted…Adult classics book haulMy Profile

    • Oh I don’t feel that the mother is completely off the hook. Like I said, caution and attention was required, and was clearly lacking. But I feel the zoo is also responsible, as it is their responsibility to build safe enclosures.

      Having said that, any way we look at this, it is a terribly unfortunate incident. 🙁
      Shanaya Tales recently posted…May Wrap Up (Books and Movies) #FridayReadsMy Profile

  12. I don’t fault the zoo’s eventual action, however, a child fell into a gorilla enclosure in Germany not long ago and the gorilla keep the child safe until he was call back to the sleeping area, which it did willingly. Multiple tranquilizers could have been shot to ensure a speedy result and the rifle could have been held in place to shot if the gorilla got aggressive. All of the video shows the gorilla only reacting to all of the idiots screaming.
    Do not fault the zoo for the enclosure safety. The child maneuvered through several to get to the wall to fall in. It also took time for him to circumvent all of them. His parents are at fault, knowing he wanted to get in the water and to be unaware of his location long enough to get through the various barriers without their knowledge is neglect. And yes I have two active boys who have gotten hurt doing things on occasion. Broken arm roller skating, broken wrist playing football, but my wife and I never let them out of sight in a situation like this. This isn’t an accident, this was poor parenting.

    • There are a couple of things here –

      1. The videos that you are pointing to, only covered half the story. Many eye-witnesses said that the really bad part played out on the concrete, and the child was getting seriously injured (even if it wasn’t Harambe’s intent).
      2. I too believed that tranquilizers could have been shot, but I feel that the Zoo authorities are more knowledgeable, and must have taken a wise decision, given the circumstances. They wouldn’t have wanted to lose Harambe – because they clearly had more stake in him than any of us.

      You are entitled to your opinion, and I respect that, but clearly, I feel that the zoos need to work on enclosure safety. And I would not judge someone as a bad parent on the basis of one incident. I would not want to be judged on the basis of one act/one moment/one day, and I would extend the same courtesy to others.
      Shanaya Tales recently posted…May Wrap Up (Books and Movies) #FridayReadsMy Profile

  13. This needed to be said. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either not a parent or has forgotten how it was to parent a toddler.

    Of course it was sad that the gorilla died but to think about anything other than the child must have been so incredible on the part of the zoo. May we never judge another until we have walked ten miles in their shoes and lived to talk about it too.
    Shailaja Vishwanath recently posted…Things you should rememberMy Profile

  14. I totally agree. Not only this incident but l have a major gripe with people judging parents left, right and center. We are humans too and we make mistakes as well. These days social media is used as a weapon to be nasty, to annoy and to act holier than thou. What happened was unfortunate. A sad loss of life but given that hindsight is almost always 20-20, l am sure the zoo authorities did their best. Let’s not make the parents suffer any more than what they are already doing. Well written, Shantala!
    Rachna recently posted…Rome Diaries – Pantheon and Trevi FountainMy Profile

  15. Honestly, just as Sid said it could be my kid also. Sometimes a split second is enough for something unfortunate to occur. Any parent will agree. What you said, about showing empathy and not judging than is the key here. It was an unfortunate circumstance, something that could not be avoided, and cannot be changed. Accidents happen, and it is time we begin to start cutting parents some slack for the way they are bringing up their kids.
    Jaibala Rao recently posted…When It All BeginsMy Profile

  16. That was such a great post, Shantala! The first thing that came to my.mind was why didn’t the zoo authorities shoot darts at that animal? I agree, 4 yo kids can be quite a handful, but passing such judgements and such crass comments is unthinkable. We all are humans at the end of the day – humans who aren’t perfect in any way! What right do we have to pass such rotten comments on those parents who I am.sure must be still traumatised by the incident and now by the curses being flung at them for their supposedly poor parenting skills. Okay, shooting the gorilla was bad, but do these same people raise their voices when other endangered species get shot at or used in cruel games for their entertainment? Do they?

  17. Well said. Empathy and introspection is the need of the hour.
    Inderpreet Kaur Uppal recently posted…Author Answers with Pamela Fagan HutchinsMy Profile

  18. I was shocked to see that parenting has been brought into this for no reason. It’s so silly and annoying.

    What if a grown adult had fallen instead? Wouldn’t they have killed the animal then?
    Soumya recently posted…Book Review: Dark PlacesMy Profile

  19. I never really understood people placing an animal’s life over that of a human’s, whether or not the animal is endangered is not even the question here.. I wonder what these people would say if they were in a similar situation one day or if they were in the pit with an animal that could harm them..humans first is my ideology, animals always after them..
    Nabanita recently posted…#MommyTalks – How Do I Leave Her In The Creche?My Profile

  20. Did come across this on television and felt the reaction was not justified.. a child is precious and when an accident happens such as this, almost all of us would at first instance want our child saved

  21. Lata Sunil says:

    I have been away and saw the video yesterday on the news. Believe me, as a mother I was horrified and I am glad the zoo acted fast enough to save the child. It is an unfortunate accident. But it is equally difficult to control kids. The zoos should take more precautions in future.

  22. Brittany says:

    Considering the woman has neglected her kids in the past, and had them removed not once by TWICE, the sole blame is on her neglect and self absorbed “selfie” taking. She was letting her phone, like many others, distract her and her child could have died! Shame on HER! This is in no way the Zoo’s fault. If you have an active 4 year old, than you of all people, should know they aren’t going to just “keep their hand in your pocket”. No excuse for her actions! Stop making one… absolutely ridiculous!

    • I am not making excuses for her. I completely agree that attention was required and was lacking. But I refuse to label anybody as a bad mother for one incident. And am horrified that people who are so concerned about the gorilla’s life are so willing to sacrifice the child’s as punishment.

      If this was a pattern of neglect, it was a totally different matter, but I have not found any past instance of neglect (and I have googled it after your comment). In case you have found the same, do share.
      Shanaya Tales recently posted…My kid would never fall into a gorilla pit..and other lies we tell ourselves.My Profile

  23. You are so right on point. People spouting those comments have obviously never been parents. I love animals too but even if that was the LAST gorilla on Earth, it wouldn’t have been worth a child’s life. I tell new parents you haven’t understood guilt until you close the car door on your child’s fingers. It happens.

  24. Rubina Ramesh says:

    It is easy to be moralistic when one’s own loved one is not in danger. Totally agree with your VP.

  25. People tend to link two incidents – this & the shooting of the lion in another case earlier in the week while they are outraging and honestly, my views are divided.
    For me, this child falling was no deliberate act. It was an accident and could have happened to anyone so I dont see how you can blame the mother. The end result was tragic but a call was made.
    The lion incident however did not sit right with me at all – that was a man who knowingly tried to commit suicide by breaking the rules of the zoo and walking into a lions enclosure. For me, killing the lion there was the wrong call.
    I wonder if my stance makes sense :\
    Roshan Radhakrishnan recently posted…Words on My Door #1LinerWedsMy Profile

  26. I was very much outraged myself, no not at the incident, but the way people in social media were reacting to it. One would think you’d know the value of a human’s life. Yes it is sad that the Gorilla had to be killed, but that was the only choice. I’m glad someone spoke up with a sane mind.
    Dashy recently posted…The Phone CallMy Profile

  27. Thank you so much for writing this post, Shantala!

    This is so horrifying! It’s true that parents should have been more careful but making such statements…God! This is awful!! It seems that people have stopped thinking before they pass comments. Reminds me of a quotation by Carl Jung which says, “Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.” And, parents are the easiest target, as if they are the last ones to care about their children.

    There has to be strict safety rules (plus quick action arrangements) in the zoos.
    Tarang Sinha recently posted…We Will Meet Again: Back Cover Blurb and a Set of HaikuMy Profile

  28. Internet is a vile place Shantala … people hide behind masks and point fingers at others. Don’t let it go to your heart. No matter what you say they will come back with more vile comments. Whatever happened was tragic!! A life was lost… a life was saved. Let this just be an example for other parents and zoo authorities to be careful. Although I don’t support Zoos, but that’s a different topic altogether. Take care.
    Rajlakshmi recently posted…The book thief: Well, sort of a reviewMy Profile

  29. Absolutely — people have been acting like they know everything they need to know about this family based on one incident (as if no other parent has ever taken their eyes off their kid for a moment and the kid got into mischief). I do think it matters that the family is black. Evidently there have been a bunch of other incidents this year in America where (white) kids got into zoo enclosures and either they or the animal were harmed, and we didn’t hear a peep about any of those parents being neglectful. :/
    Jenny @ Reading the End recently posted…Reading the End Bookcast, Ep.62 – The Only Rule Is It Has to WorkMy Profile

    • You know what, I believe that’s exactly it. This is essentially discrimination. We (as a society) need to stop such partisanship based on race/color/gender/orientation, and we really really need to learn to cut parents some slack. Especially mothers. I wonder if this story would have played out as it did if it was the father. They would have still said something on the lines of – the mother should have known better than to send the kid to the zoo with the father. Who knows? Sigh.
      Shanaya Tales recently posted…May Wrap Up (Books and Movies) #FridayReadsMy Profile

  30. I haven’t read enough of this story to really comment on it. All I know is that accidents happen. The eventual outcome was tragic all the same.
    Corinne Rodrigues recently posted…Should Grief Make You Self Absorbed #MondayMusingsMy Profile

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge

Visit to discover Indian blogs