Unanswered questions remain following Harambe’s death

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The rush to judgment following the Cincinnati Zoo incident that resulted in a small boy’s injuries and a gorilla’s death is understandable but unproductive.

It is understandable because the incident involves two issues that ignite our passions: the welfare of children and the welfare of animals. But pointing fingers and laying blame before all of the facts are known doesn’t do anyone any good.

A Comprehensive Investigation Is Warranted

From what I understand, authorities began looking into the matter this week.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

An article in The New York Times indicates the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office and Cincinnati police are now trying to learn more about the events leading up to the incident in which a three-year-old boy somehow got into the gorilla’s enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo.

“The incident at the Cincinnati Zoo involving the young child who fell into the gorilla enclosure is under investigation by the Cincinnati Police Department,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters said in a statement issued Tuesday. “Once their investigation is concluded, they will confer with our office on possible criminal charges.”

A second statement issued by Deters’ office yesterday said the police inquiry had been completed and that Deters is reviewing their findings. His own review of the findings could be finished as soon as today.

According to media reports, the little boy was not badly hurt. However his adventure — or misadventure — ended tragically when zoo personnel shot and killed a large male gorilla named Harambe. While there are conflicting accounts about Harambe’s behavior, the  personnel on scene apparently believed he posed a significant danger to the child and acted accordingly.

Because the United States Department of Agriculture oversees zoos, federal authorities will be tasked with conducting a separate investigation should it come to that. Specifically, they would be charged with assessing conditions around the enclosure and determining whether the shooting was justified.

Here’s What I Want To Know

As I’ve already mentioned, there are conflicting accounts about Harambe’s behavior. Since I wasn’t on the scene, here’s what I want to know:

  • Were people screaming after the little boy got into the enclosure?
  • If so did the screaming seem to alarm Harambe?
  • If so why didn’t the zoo workers quiet the crowd?
  • Did zoo workers clear the area?
  • How many workers came to the enclosure?
  • Were they specially trained in dealing with gorillas?
  • What kind of training did they receive?
  • How often are training exercises done?
  • What types of training exercise are done?
  • What is the zoo’s policy regarding the use of lethal force?
  • What is the zoo’s policy regarding public safety?
  • How often are these policies reviewed?

I am sure you have questions, too. Please feel free to share them below.