Orcas are one of the world’s most intelligent animals. They are highly complex, built for travelling long distances, they have cultures and languages, and yet somehow humans think it’s okay to keep them in such disgusting conditions? There is no educational value in abusing animals.

There is a difference between this

and this

the difference being that one is a circus with little to no stimulation and the other is an enclosure that has made an effort to be like the animals natural environment. 

Animals in zoos aren’t made to preform and if it is a good zoo a lot of effort is made in making the enclosure a good environment for the animal.

All zoos are businesses. They are not protectors of endangered species, conservationists or research centers, and they do not teach anyone to truly respect animals (or visitors would run to become members of animal protection agencies instead of going for a hot dog at the zoo cafe).
—  Ruby Roth

Now that it’s been a few days, I want to comment on the incident at the Cincinnati Zoo on 5/28/16 with Harambe the gorilla.  I know the internet is flooded with this subject right now, and I debated whether I wanted to share my 2 cents at all.  Ultimately, though, I feel that in a case like this, my platform via this blog means that I have a responsibility to help people understand.

First and foremost, I extend my deepest condolences to the Cincinnati Zoo family, particularly Harambe’s keepers and the emergency team who responded to the situation.

I’m not here to pass judgment or point the finger of blame. Simply put, I do not work at the Cincinnati Zoo, I was not there when this happened, and I have not heard firsthand accounts of the events from the staff that was involved. When tragedies happen, everyone suddenly thinks they are an expert, and this case is no different. People with no zoo experience and no knowledge of gorillas are blasting their opinions all over social media, and this makes things even more confusing for well-meaning people who may not know how to identify a misinformed bystander’s opinion. Allow me to clarify, based on my profound, firsthand familiarity with the way zoos work.

1. The Cincinnati Zoo is an accredited, responsibly managed, well-respected zoological institution that meets or exceeds AZA regulations in every capacity. These regulations include safety. As a safety precaution, the Zoo – like all zoos of its caliber – has a team of people who are specially trained to respond to emergency situations involving animals. This includes not only animal escapes, but also situations like the one with Harambe where a human is in direct danger because of an animal.

2. The hope is that this emergency response team will never be required to use firearms to neutralize a dangerous situation. However, this is always a possibility because some animals are extremely dangerous and in some situations, there may not be a safer option for the humans involved.

3. As keepers, we must always prioritize human life over animal life. This can be a tough one for people to understand, and of course it can potentially lead to some heartbreaking outcomes, like in the case with Harambe. But no matter how endangered the species is, and no matter how much we love the animals, we simply cannot stand by and allow a human being to die if that human death can be reasonably prevented by euthanizing an animal. This is a hard thing to accept but it’s a necessary truth for our industry. If you can’t wrap your head around it, just imagine how differently this situation would be coming off if the Zoo had not euthanized Harambe and the young boy had been killed.

4. There is so much criticism being thrown at the Zoo over this, but I want to emphasize that this was not a decision that the Zoo made lightly. They didn’t just “give up,” or decide to euthanize because it was “the easy choice.” Trust me – this choice, although clearly necessary and responsible, was not an easy one to make. It was not easy for whoever made the decision to shoot to kill, and it was not easy for the person who pulled the trigger. It is, I can only imagine, a nightmare for Harambe’s keepers. Many people within the Cincinnati Zoo family are feeling this loss very acutely right now, and their hearts are broken far worse than those of some bystanders on the Internet, no matter how good those bystanders’ intentions may be. Bottom line: the Zoo would not have made this decision without VERY good reason to do so, and unless you were a part of that decision-making process, you have no right to pass judgment because you simply do not know what it’s like to have to make a decision like that. It’s easy to sit at your computer and say “they shouldn’t have shot Harambe.” It’s infinitely harder to be the person holding the gun. Have some respect.

5. Yes, that gorilla could have killed that child in a heartbeat.  The way Harambe dragged the child was not “protective.”  If zoo personnel had not intervened the way they did, the child could have easily been killed by that massive, incredibly strong animal, regardless of whether Harambe was actively agressive or not.

6. Tranquilizer darts take time to take effect.  Anyone who has ever seen an animal get darted will tell you that they don’t like it one bit and often react with a burst of aggression.  It was not an option to “just tranquilize him” because there is no “just” about that, in reality.  A tranquilizer dart would likely have spurred Harambe into further aggression, with the child right there to take the worst of it.

7. Zookeepers care about the public’s safety, but we also desperately want to protect our animals. We love our animals; we have devoted our lives to their care.  We know that all it takes is one parent taking their eyes off their kid in Cincinnati… one parent holding their kid over a railing in Pittsburgh… one guy suicidally leaping into an exhibit in Chile… and our animals’ lives are on the line. We are literally one accident, one negligent moment, one idiotic act of bravado, one impulse, one split-second away from being in the same position that those Cincinnati Zoo employees were in. We do our best to keep our visitors safe, but your safety begins with you. If you visit a zoo, you need to help us out a little by using common sense and being extra vigilant, especially when it concerns your children. Many zoo animals are quite capable of injuring or killing a human and would not hesitate to do so if given the chance. The safest exhibit barrier in the world is not a substitute for common sense and paying attention.

8. Yes, zoos are important.  Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered in the wild.  They are literally vanishing off the planet before our eyes.  Captive breeding and population management are crucial if we are to have any hope of preserving this species, not to mention the multitude of other species which the zoo world is fighting to save.  If you’re unclear on the necessity of zoos, I refer you to this post (not mine).  Gorillas are kept in captivity (in responsible, accredited institutions like Cincinnati) for a reason.  Educate yourself.

This was a terribly sad situation with a tragic outcome for Harambe, the Cincinnati Zoo staff, and gorillas in general.  I am grateful that the child is okay, and I hope that people will take this as a wake-up call.  Zoos are important.  Gorillas are important.  Animals can be dangerous.  Every action has consequences.  The zoo community is fighting hard against threats to wildlife, and that fight is hard enough without an army of internet activists misdirecting their anger at us when tragedy strikes.

If you are able, donate to the International Gorilla Conservation Programme or The Gorilla Organization.


Zookeepers and animal care workers around the world are having an awesome time recreating a scene from Jurassic World in which Chris Pratt’s character, Own Grady, manages to hold off a fearsome trio of velociraptors using his voice and body language. Fantastic photos are popping up all over The Internets of these brave animal experts fending off everything from walruses and rhinos to spiders and hedgehogs. So many zookeepers have gotten in on the fun, demonstrating the dangers they face working with penguins, otters, and wallabies, and so on, that the phenomenon has now become its own Twitter meme via #JurassicZoo.

This photo by Jason Smith is one of our favorites. After all, birds are living dinosaurs:

Follow the #JurassicZoo tag on Twitter to see many, many more examples of brave zookeepers and animals handlers risking their lives to keep us safe and thoroughly entertained.

Photos by Feminerds, Lion Country Safari, Liberty Science Center, Susie the Five-Toed Sloth, Oregon Zoo, Georgia Aquarium, Elmwood Park Zoo, Woodland Park Zoo, Imgut upload, and the Taronga Zoo respectively.

[via Neatorama, Dorkly, and Bored Panda]