Harambee...the truth about co-existence

Harambe, the Gorilla died May 28th, 2016 at the Cincinnati Zoo

Harambe, the Gorilla died May 28th, 2016 at the Cincinnati Zoo. Courtesty of Reuters

While this incident may have happened a few months ago, and the general public, while outraged at the time, has likely largely forgotten and moved on, this incident is part of a larger problem. Of course at the time, the media was saturated with opinionated reviews from all over the world around the incident at the Cincinnati Zoo and Harambe, the Gorilla. (An interesting side note: the word "Harmabe" comes from a Swahili rallying cry meaning "pull together"...something to consider).

While the media outlets were flooded with opinions, I too did my best to keep up, reading the articles, listening to the experts and seeing countless reactions from people condemning the mother, the zoo, the idea of zoos, the enclosure and more. However, one type of comment stood out to me more than the rest, one notion stuck with me and really made me think of our current plight, the battle for co-existence, and the war for planet Earth…”No life of any animal will ever trump the life of a human, period.”

Really? NO life of ANY animal, far and wide, under ANY circumstances, for ANY reason, will EVER trump the life of a human? I was dumbfounded. Is this what we are up against as conservationists? Will human life always be valued as the most important species regardless of the outcome? Isn’t this thinking THE SAME THINKING that allows us to destroy rain forests, participate in trophy hunting, consume factory farmed meat, and pull dolphins from the water, let them die, all for a selfie? Is biodiversity not even a consideration? I present my own counterpoint to the above. No life of any species can intrinsically be said to trump the life of any other. Why? Because no single species can survive on their own. Every species on this planet needs others to survive. Planet Earth is a complex, bio diverse, fragile ecosystem, one that needs all of its species to maintain this wonderful way of life. When we lose ANY of them, our planet changes and part of our planet dies.

I am not referring to this one incident alone, this incident has been examined from all possible angles. The parent was negligent, the child fell, and the zoo followed whatever procedure they felt was right. A decision that is easy to armchair quarterback, but has specific time-sensitive ramifications within the moment. This incident alone is not the point of this blog, however, IT is part of a much greater issue. When we as humans begin to place a hierarchy and value on the life of others, we begin to suffer. This planet does not exist simply for humans to do as we please, destroy as we please, and assert ourselves as the only species that matters. We are part of something much bigger, an ecosystem, a bio diverse playground, an interconnected cosmological experiment, a PLANET.

We rely on the species that share this planet with us to provide our oxygen (plants and algae), our weather system (oceans), our medicine (rain forests), our food (pollinators), our landscapes (land mammals) realistically, everything we take for granted. Is it fair to say in every circumstance human life should always be considered as more valuable than the life of an animal? If we follow that logic to the end of the line, are we not all doomed? When the last of all other species are dead, and only humans remain, how will we survive without them? Assuming we could somehow survive, would this be an existence worth aspiring toward?

Our perception of wildlife needs to change if we are to continue to survive on this planet. We cannot continue to behave as if we are the top species here and we cannot continue to adopt the attitude that no one else matters but us. We all matter, we are all here to exist, and no one species is here to be categorically disposed of at the hands of another. If we cannot CO-exist, we cannot exist…it is simple.

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