Thank you. From the bottom of my heart I want to thank you for many things. I never knew I could care about something so much until what happened to you. In a world filled with constant violence and hatred, I really shouldn’t be surprised. But here’s what happened: you were never where you belonged. You belonged in the forests and lowland swamps in central Africa in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. But that’s not where you ever were. You were born into captivity in Texas. You were a beautiful addition to a world where fewer than 100,000 of you exist. After a while you were moved to the Cincinnati Zoo, where you still didn’t belong but now you had your new friends Chewie and Mara. Things weren’t that different from Texas; More people paid to stare and gawk at you while you went about your day. You “…demonstrated intelligence and curiosity, using sticks and things to reach for items outside [your] grasp.” And the day after your 17th birthday, a curious 4-year-old human who wanted to see you climbed over the fence and fell into your home. You picked and poked at the child like it was a new toy. And at 450 pounds, you probably could’ve killed him in seconds, but you were curious, just like the 4-year-old was. And you probably didn’t realize why everyone was screaming at you. You didn’t understand, but you stood to protect him and I’m sorry no one stood to protect you.
It’s too late now, but people still defend what happened. And I’m really sorry that no one was there to help you. I’m really sorry that people don’t value you as much as they value themselves. People said “You’re dealing with human life or animal life here. So what’s the decision? That’s easy to figure out.” I’m really sorry that people say that. It shouldn’t be an easy decision. I’m not saying that boy’s not important, but you were just as important. People said that you tossed the boy “10 feet in the air, and I saw him land on his back. It was a mess.” But the little boy came out with minimal injuries. Those injuries were probably more from falling several feet into the pit rather than from your curiosity. And after your death, we were able to extract and freeze your genetic material but we couldn’t keep you alive. How selfish is that of us?
Humans think they’re more important, more valuable and worth more than other species. Honestly, I don’t understand it. Humans take such pride in being so evolved and intelligent, but let’s not forget that we are also the most dangerous species. We are one of millions of species, some of which we don’t even know exist yet, and we control and manipulate most living things on earth. We pollute waters and collectively raise the very core temperature of the earth. And many justify those acts as a need for the survival of our species. But was it really necessary to kill you? No. It really wasn’t. No one is to blame here. Not the child, not the parents, not the zookeepers, not the bystanders or anyone else. You weren’t to blame either Harambe; you never belonged there anyway.
So why am I thanking you? I’m thanking you, Harambe, because you helped me make a life decision. I’ve decided that I want to spend my life making sure this doesn’t happen again. I want to make sure that our friends and family have a chance to see where they belong. I want to make sure that no one ever has to make the “easy decision” of killing one of your kind over one of mine. Thank you for bringing this to my attention and causing a ripple in the world.
I’m sorry you never got to go home.
Harambe was a Western Lowland Gorilla. the species has been listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as a “critically endangered,” species. This means that they have a high risk of going extinct. According to the IUCN, the population of the Western Lowland Gorilla has declined by more than 60 percent in the past 25 years alone. Western lowland gorillas are a very popular hunted species for their meat as well as their body parts which are used as medicine and “magical charms,” according to the World Wildlife Fund. On a daily basis, dozens are killed without getting the same kind of attention as Harambe’s death received. It is also popular for baby gorillas to be captured and sold as pets. They’re also losing wide arcs of their forest home to logging and mining habits.