Jack Hanna: I'd bet my life that gorilla would have killed the child had zookeepers not stopped it

Gettin’ weird out there.


“But no moment came.” Right. There’s a reason for that. If you can’t spare the time to watch the whole clip, skip to 3:20 below and watch from there until around 10:00. Hanna starts by talking about another gorilla-meets-child incident that’s being revisited today, an encounter in 1996 in which a three-year-old fell into the gorilla pen at a Chicago zoo — and was rescued by a female gorilla, who handed the child over to zookeepers. If that gorilla didn’t hurt that child, critics are wondering, why didn’t Harambe get the benefit of the doubt this week by Cincinnati’s zookeepers? Ah, says Hanna, that’s because the gorilla in Chicago was a female. Harambe was a silverback male. When an intruder enters the gorillas’ territory, the male asserts itself; having people shrieking at it from above while it’s confused would only further antagonize it. Hanna says the instant he saw the footage of an agitated Harambe yanking the kid roughly through the water by the foot, he knew it would have ended with the child dead had zookeepers not intervened. To give you a sense of the power the animal has, he notes that humans need a hatchet and a sledgehammer to generate the force needed to crack the shell of a green coconut. Male silverbacks can do it with their bare hands. Let that thought guide you in what lay in store for the kid.

At least one other animal expert disagrees that Harambe was a threat, but this logic is unconvincing:

‘The silverback would’ve understood that it was a defenceless small child. They would not normally attack, they are not an aggressive species (and) in the wild I’m certain the boy wouldn’t have been killed,’ she said.

‘If he was going to attack he would’ve warned him first. The first thing they do is charge and beat their chests and as far as I know that didn’t happen.’

Okay, but if I understand Hanna, he’s not arguing that the gorilla wanted to kill the child. He’s arguing that it was on edge, alarmed by a strange creature in its pen and the noise above, and so fantastically strong that it was apt to inflict a fatal injury purely by accident. The child reportedly ended up with a concussion just from the limited interactions you see in the clip. How long should the zookeepers have tried to “negotiate” with Harambe while he dragged the kid through the water and along concrete before deciding to put him down?

Exit question: Um, what’s the point of this story? Mom took her eye off her child for a second, leading to a tragic accident, and therefore dad must be punished by having his criminal history aired in international papers?