This weekend at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, a four year old child slipped into a western lowland gorilla enclosure. Upon entering the enclosure, Harambe, a 17 year old gorilla weighing 400 lbs, discovered the child and began carrying the child around the animal enclosure.

Shortly after, the zoo’s security team responded by shooting Harambe with a rifle, killing the western lowland gorilla.

After a tragic incident like this, it is essential that not only zoos, but that the general public as well, consider and contemplate if zoos really are the sort of establishments that they claim to be, and if zoos have any place in our society.

Establishments like zoos are constantly touting “the fact” that they are helping animals, that they are conservation efforts and that they are educating the public, but I ask you, what is being taught to the public by executing a resident endangered species? What kind of conservation work is being accomplished by killing an endangered species?

Western lowland gorillas are an endangered species currently at a CR (Critically Endangered) conservation status. They are indigenous to Africa and are illegally hunted for their meat and skins, and illegally captured to be sold to zoos.

Their native forest habitats are continually destroyed by deforestation where their lives are seen as less important than human farming.

If people really wish to make a difference in these animals’ lives, locking them up in an enclosure 8,000 miles away from their natural environment to be gawked at by thousands of people is not the solution.  The solution is in stopping the poachers, and stopping the destruction of their native environment, which is often destroyed to make room for crops and cattle for human purposes.

If conservation really was first priority to zoos and other similar supposed animal conservation efforts, than these would be the steps they’d take towards animal conservation, not upping ticket sales.

Photo by Ryan Poplin via Flickr.