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The Mommy Memoirs: Gorillagate


It’s everywhere right?! 

Unless you live under a rock you’ve probably heard the story – Mother takes children to the Cincinnati Zoo. Three-year-old son gets away from his mother, slips through a fence and falls into the enclosure of an endangered, 450 lb. gorilla named Harambe. Said gorilla drags child through a water-filled moat. After ten minutes, zoo officials shoot and kill the gorilla. National outrage ensues.

The entire story is tragic. An endangered gorilla was killed, a toddler is likely traumatized by this horrific experience, and the mother…. okay, let’s talk about the mother.

Did you know she has received numerous death threats? Did you know that people are calling for this woman’s child to be taken from her and put into foster care? 

In my opinion there is a big difference in a negligent parent – one who consciously and intentionally puts there child in physical and/or emotional danger on a regular basis, and a parent who has a moment of negligence – one who makes a human error that may unintentionally put their child in danger. 

I mean how many of you reading this can say you have never, ever had a moment you became distracted from your child – even if only for a few seconds? 

Every mother I know has had a moment of distraction that she constantly beats herself over – a baby falling off the couch, a toddler getting a hold of something toxic or sharp, a lost child’s name being called over the loud speaker while she frantically fears the absolute worst. 

And now, just imagine that moment being televised for the whole world to see. Imagine the judgement, ridicule, embarrassment and shame. Imagine people telling you they thought you didn’t deserve to be a parent because of this mistake. Imagine strangers threatening to take your life because of it, and the fear you would live in every day.

It’s hard to imagine, but that is this mother’s reality. 

This woman does not appear to be a monster. In fact, she works at a daycare center for toddlers and pre-school children, which means she likely enjoys children and does not have a criminal background. Witnesses have said the boy told his mother he was going to get into the moat, and his mother told him to behave before being distracted by other children with her. One witness stated that “Her attention was drawn away for seconds, maybe a minute, and then he was up and in before you knew it.”

I recently attempted to watch the video of the gorilla violently dragging this little boy’s body around, and I couldn’t make it five seconds in without feeling sick to my stomach. I can’t begin to fathom the utter terror and helplessness this mother felt as she watched this from above.

Her moment of negligence will likely haunt her and her child for the rest of their lives.

I should also add that I have a great deal of compassion for the gorilla involved in this tragic incident. He was not to blame. In fact, he did exactly what most of us would expect a gorilla to do when a small, strange being suddenly appears in its environment. 

But let’s be clear – my moment of negligence or yours, my 3-year-old in that enclosure or yours –  if I had to make the choice between the gorilla’s life or a child’s, I would choose the child’s every time. 

This boy’s mother is not perfect. None of us are. And while it saddens me that the life of an endangered gorilla was lost due to her mistake, I’m relieved that her little boy’s life wasn’t. 

Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts on this incident? Share them with me at (* Note: Responses may be published).

(For those of you wondering, the child survived the incident with only a concussion and bruises,  police are reviewing the incident to determine whether or not any charges will be brought against the boy’s mother, and animal rights groups are calling for an investigation at the zoo because they believe the enclosure violated the ‘Animal Welfare Act.’ )