A Voice For Animals


27 APRIL 2020 BLOG 31

Mélina sat quietly in the garden all of Saturday, reading the books that her parents had given her. “To be a writer, even writing in your own journal, you may want to read what other people have written. And to write about Who I Am …reading other people’s story may inspire you to explore this question with much more depth of curiosity for self, with passionate curiosity.” said her parents.

The books were stories written by Suzanne Mondoux. Some of the books were fictional stories, and others autobiographies told in a non-formula style for fiction novels, and autobiographies as such.

Mélina read of Suzanne’s adventures from when she worked in the Yukon Territory and Northwest Territory of Canada, and when she worked in Nigeria, Mauritania, Republic of Congo, Guinea, and Mali, and how she travelled to other countries in Africa, and about her adventure to Antarctica.

Mélina learned about Suzanne’s passion for animals. Her work in the conservation and environmental fields got her out of bed every day and drove her to experience one adventure after another in foreign lands, far away from where she was born, leaving her family and friends, to come and make her own family with the friends that she met along the way.

In the pages of one of the books, Mélina found an article entitled Harambe – Letter to the Editor. The article read:

Harambe – Letter to the Editor

I didn’t know that when I woke up on May 28, 2016, the day after my 17th birthday, that I would be murdered – especially at the hands of my keepers. I thought I was family… I kept hearing them say “They are like family, we love them…” they would say it over and over again.   

There will be no memorial service for me. The zoo staff will come together and talk about me, rehash all of their great memories of me and cry a bit. What happened was apparently tragic. It was a difficult decision for humans to make, and something they said they would do again. But I know how much people who work in zoos and people visiting zoos love animals “we love our animals and they must be well cared for and respected…” they say.

Their decision to shoot and kill me was well justified… they are the professionals who understand the animal business, animal behaviour as well as gorilla behaviour, and they would make the same decision all over again if they had to. I was shot because of my physical strength, wild animals are dangerous, and the odds were stacked against me because a zoo is a dangerous place for animals, because people make mistakes.

But, I’m also supposedly easy to train. It makes it easy for the professionals, who know gorilla behaviour to give me medication and to be able to manipulate or trick me. I don’t think it’s ever crossed their minds that I ‘chose’ every decision and action I ever made. Why would I impose more aggression on myself? Sometimes I may have chosen aggression, but it was still my decision. Did anyone ever ask me?

I’ve heard that since my death, it’s been said “that in the real world – us, the professionals, who work with these animals, understand how dangerous a gorilla can be….we understand them”. I’m not sure what to say about that. Again, has anyone ever asked me… asked any ‘Being’ known as Animal – to engage in any decision that involves us directly? We do understand. Where would the human race be today if such a dialogue were started? Imagine how different the world would be! The superior Being has decided that no animal life is more important than a human life.

Did I mention that these Beings care about their animals? They took it very seriously that my death was now a loss for the zoo, for their breeding program. They also spoke on my behalf, and said that I was clearly agitated and clearly disoriented, and therefore, I represented a high risk due to my strength. In their eyes, I was acting erratically. The superior Being believed that I wanted the human child who dropped from above down into my prison cell – I mean my enclosure, to behave like a gorilla. I didn’t feel erratic or disoriented. I knew exactly what I was doing, clearly. I was protecting the human child, I was the leader and protector of my group. But I wasn’t the professional gorilla expert who worked with wild animals or other gorillas. I was just a gorilla. The zoo is a safe place. They love their animals. Just remember to read and respect the signs – don’t feed the animals, wild animals are dangerous, respect the animals – I’m curious about the part that says « respect the animals ». The animals in zoos aren’t bought, or so I’ve heard, they are traded… it’s like a big dating game – they say. I don’t recall ever going on a date.

I was murdered because of who I was. The professionals say they live in the real world and had to make a real decision – they didn’t want to point any fingers – people climb barriers, apparently. They said thatthose who didn’t agree with my death didn’t understand primate behaviour, and didn’t understand the danger I was to the Being. Nevertheless, this incident, this loss, doesn’t affect anyone as much as the people at the zoo. Of course not! They had a difficult situation, they made a difficult call, and they were not pointing any fingers. The bullet that pierced my body saved the Being – but I’m not pointing any fingers either.

I said at the beginning of my story that the day after my 17th birthday, I was murdered, but I didn’t die. I never did and never will. Look around and listen. If my life had to end for the greater good of humankind, then it was worth it, not to save one little boy, because his life was never threatened, but to save the human race. I forgive you and your fear. A great Being once said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Harambe, Gorilla Being.

31 May, 2016.