March 24, 2004

Jabari was wronged. From The Life of Pi:
[Zoo] animals do not escape to somewhere but from something. Something within their territory has frightened them ... and set off a flight reaction. The animal flees, or tries to. I was surprised to read at the Toronto Zoo ... that leopards can jump up to eighteen feet straight up. Our leopard enclosure in Pondicherry was sixteen feet high at the back. I surmise that Rosie and Copycat never jumped out was not because of constitutional weekness but simply because they had no reason to. Animals that escape go from the known to the unknown--and if there is one thing an animal hates above all else, it is the unknown.

Consider then the 300-pound gorilla who escaped from his enclosure last week, "snatching up a toddler with his teeth and attacking three other people before being shot by officers," as reports:
How the 13-year-old gorilla exactly broke out was unclear. Some youths had reportedly teased Jabari shortly before he escaped, but it was not known if that was a factor in the breakout.

Zoo director Rich Buickerood said the gorilla "had to have scaled" the enclosure's 15-foot concave wall. But some experts doubt that could have happened.

"Virtually anybody who's worked with great apes has not been able to compute anyway that a gorilla could get up a 15-foot wall," Wharton said....

Police ... are investigating, but they said officers were forced to shoot the charging gorilla after it came within 15 feet of them.

"We did not go out there looking to kill an animal," said Senior Cpl. Chris Gilliam, a Dallas police spokesman. "We went out there in response to a situation where three people had already been injured."

Would they have been forced to shoot to kill an unarmed 300-pound man who "charged" at them? Assume a man known to be incapable of understanding language and not morally responsible for the violence he had committed. Don't the police know how to wrestle down a man that size and handcuff him?

UPDATE: Several people have written to point out that it is harder to wrestle a gorilla down than a man of the same weight. I concede that is probably true with respect to most gorillas and most men. But if you reread what I wrote, I never said Jabari was wronged because they didn't use the identical method that would have been used on a man. I'm objecting to the extreme shoot-to-kill reaction and the way we instinctively think they were justified because the gorilla was only an animal. There is a middle range there, between what we think needs to be done when the charging entity is human and what we think is just fine when it is nonhuman. At the very least they could have shot him in the leg or the shoulder. I think, with a sufficient number of police, he could have been physically restrained without shooting him. Don't they have tranquilizer darts at the zoo? If we are going to have zoos to please ourselves, don't we owe something to the animals? Jabari was taunted, rocks were thrown at him (probably to get him to put on a show of ferocity). It seems to me that, under the circumstances, he deserved a lot better than he got.

1 comment:

Logic316 said...

Are you serious? A 300 lbs gorilla
has the strength of about 10 men, and if it felt threatened enough it could take any human apart without even trying. They also possess long sharp canines and a jaw strength which exceeds that of a pit bull and could easily bite off somebody's fingers. Gorillas are generally not vicious, though, so maybe the cops could have coralled him using pepper spray or tazers, but trying to wrestle him down would have been completely out of the question!