Christine Flowers, 6/2/2016 [Archive]

Mom to Blame in Gorilla Tragedy

By Christine Flowers

About 20 years ago, I was a French teacher in a girl's high school outside of Philadelphia and was picked to chaperone 40 of my students on a class trip to Paris. I spent two nights at the local gendarmerie trying to calm several girls who had slipped out of the hotel with the intention of losing one thing and instead, lost something infinitely more replaceable: their passports.

I accepted the responsibility, because that's what I was raised to do. Fortunately, my negligence resulted only in a lecture from my supervisor, and pursed lips from the nuns. The girls were fine, and to this day I believe that being raked over the coals by French police officers scared them straight.

As we all know, because we all spend so much of our lives on social media, a rare and endangered gorilla housed at the Cincinnati Zoo was euthanized over the weekend when a 4-year-old boy fell into its preserve. The child had either jumped over or under a fence on the perimeter of the preserve, and had fallen into the actual pit where the gorilla, named Harambe, lived. Video of the incident shows the little boy being dragged by the gorilla some distance, and then sitting in front of the animal almost as if they were having a discussion. It is a surreal circumstance, and one which should strike fear into the heart of anyone who has ever loved a child.

Ultimately, the gorilla was shot and killed, and the little boy was taken to the hospital where he was treated for non life-threatening injuries.

As expected, there was outrage on the internet. There were the usual suspects who believe that zoos are horrible places and that these majestic animals of the wild should not be caged for our human enjoyment. I always discount them as the PETA crazies, who have no problem with trashing medical laboratories that house experiments that might yield a cure for cancer, simply because some of those experiments are being performed on animals. I'm sorry, but while I adore my dog Chance and don't want to see any animal suffer, I'm of the surprisingly controversial opinion that human life is more valuable than that of an animal.

For that reason, while I mourn the loss of that majestic primate, I understand why the zoo took the steps it needed to. So do renowned animal rights activists like Jack Hanna and Jane Goodall.

But I am convinced that none of this would be necessary and that the tragedy could have been avoided if the mother of this hapless child would have done her job, which is to make damn sure her child is not placed in danger unnecessarily.

To me, when your child falls into a primate pit at the zoo, it is prima facie evidence of negligence. I don't care if you have other kids with you, I don't care if you are momentarily distracted, I don't care if you are otherwise mother of the year. If your toddler tumbles into a pit with a wild animal, your maternal instinct isn't as developed as that wild animal's.

Some may see this as "woman bashing," but I'd say the same thing if the father were in charge. This is not a gender thing. This is a common sense "thing."

Some have tried to blame the zoo by saying the primate exhibit was poorly designed. That might be the case. But if so, it is even more incumbent on a parent to make sure their child is insulated from that heightened danger. This is not the lawyer in me speaking. This is the human being with a fully functional brain.

I am not a mother. But it is ridiculous to believe that you have to give birth to understand the consequences of even momentary neglect. We can wring our hands and say all we want that it's impossible to be perfect, but when an innocent child depends upon you for his safety, you damn well better be as close to perfect as possible.

Letting a child fall into the arms of a gorilla doesn't come anywhere close to satisfying that standard.

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©2016 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at cflowers1961@gmail.com.

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