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The lesson from the tragedy of poor Harambe is that parents should look after their children properly

Published 01/06/2016

Harrowing image: Harambe the gorilla with the four-year-old boy in Cincinnati Zoo
Harrowing image: Harambe the gorilla with the four-year-old boy in Cincinnati Zoo

Mommy, Mommy, can I go play in the gorilla's den? This week's story of parenting fail comes from Cincinnati where a four-year-old boy managed to evade parental supervision, clamber over a protective fence, tumble 10ft into a moat of shallow water and find himself face to face with Harambe, 400lb of western lowland gorilla.

Mobile phone footage taken at the time has since - inevitably - gone viral. It shows the gorilla taking hold of the child - whether protectively or inquisitively is open to debate.

"It's okay," shouts the boy's mother. "Mommy's here. Stay calm, Isaiah."

We now go over to the gorilla's enclosure to judge just how that must have sounded from the perspective of little Isaiah in close proximity of King Kong.

Stay calm! To a four-year-old in the grasp of a gorilla. Seriously?

After 10 minutes during which the gorilla appeared to stand over the child protectively but (possibly spooked by screeching onlookers) had also sprinted off dragging the boy behind him through the water, zoo officials took the decision to kill Harambe.

They didn't have a whole lot of choice. They believed that attempting to sedate him with a dart would have made him more agitated while the drug took hold.

It also occurs that apart from anything else, the gorilla could have toppled on top of the child. The right decision then. Although it should never have had to have been made.

This beautiful animal, an endangered species (oh, the irony) died because of human error.

Eyewitnesses claim the child had been able to climb through the railings at the top. But where were the parents while this was going on?

The boy had apparently already said that he wanted to get down into the water. That being the case you'd think you would have held on to him pretty, damn tightly.

As someone who is not a fan of zoos, I'm not convinced that is the best way to conserve an endangered species which in its natural habitat roams up to two miles every day, is in a pen (however open) as an exhibit to be gawped at by squealing visitors.

But if you are going to do that, ensuring visitors cannot get access to the enclosure would seem to be an absolute priority. And this little boy got in somehow ...

Which brings us back to the parents who are now on social media thanking God for his rescue.

Your child is alive not because God saved him but because the zoo keeper shot Harambe, a beautiful creature, in what was a totally avoidable incident.

"As a society we are quick to judge," says Mommy. And she's right in saying that with a child you only need to take your eyes off them for a moment. But there are times, and places (the edge of the gorilla enclosure?) where you would be especially vigilant.

I remember once watching a small child toddle around the viewing area at the top of the Grand Canyon, her mother drifting several feet behind paying more attention to the scenery. There was a fence, yes. But it would have been so easy for that child to slip under and ... it doesn't bear thinking about.

Even round here you see something similar every day. Mothers, fathers especially (sorry, boys, but that's what I see) allowing wee mites to run many feet ahead of them up pavements inches from the traffic while they, the parents, check their phones.

Nobody wants to see a child dead or hurt or lost. But parents, carers do have a responsibility.

The parents of Madeleine McCann have recently been railing at criticism from Sharon Osborne, among others, that their decision to leave three small children unattended that night was "insane". Yes the decision to leave those children was insane. The awful outcome is evidence of that.

People are quick to judge, says the American Mommy. Yes. But often with good reason. It is the parents' role to protect the child. Not a 400lb gorilla's.

In the case of this little boy the outcome thankfully was good. Although not so good, tragically, for poor harmless Harambe.

We're bored to death by the Brexit debate

Obituary of the year has to be the notice placed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper in Virginia which begins; "Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Noland chose instead to pass into the eternal love of God." A last laugh for Mary Anne.

But we do have some idea how she felt.

Faced as we are with the interminable wrangling of the Brexit debate ...

Sunny skies point to bright Euro campaign 

How well the boys from Northern Ireland football team looked as they set off this week for the Euros.

Dressed in their matching and impressive blue suits and green ties they posed on the steps of their plane for a farewell photograph in the bright sunshine.

Startlingly the only thing bluer than their suits was the sky behind them. Not something you see around here every day. The sun shining on Norn Iron. Let's hope it's a good omen.

Belfast Telegraph

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