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Photo credit: Robert Streithorst

They called me Harambe. I lived at the Cincinnati Zoo until recently when I was shot down in my exhibit because a little boy fell into the water to play with me. I was just as surprised as everyone else when it happened, and I wasn’t at all sure what to do. At first I lifted him up to check to see if he was okay, but then when I saw the crowds and heard all the noise, I felt quite anxious and scooped him up with one arm and pulled him over to the other side of the moat where it was less congested.

I can certainly understand why everyone was terrified. I mean I weighed four-hundred plus pounds and could have injured this three-year-old boy with my size and strength alone, even if all I wanted to do was protect him. I’m not sure what would have happened if someone didn’t shoot me, but the whole thing seems such a shame. I loved my life in the zoo, and people loved to visit me. I was a real character! I reveled in posing for the camera and would have enjoyed participating in selfies, too, had I been able to get close enough to all my visitors. And I always got a kick out of shooting the bird while watching all the reactions! But I have to say I delighted most in pretending to splash my fans without getting them wet. Not even a drop!

I’ve heard that the woman who filmed everything said the mom wasn’t holding her son’s hand, and at one point he was behind her clearly out of her sight. She could hear him say to his mother that he wanted to jump in the water and play with me. And then she heard his mother say, “No, you’re not. No, you’re not.” Hey, there are signs all over the place that say children must be supervised at all times for a reason! And it seems to me that when a mother says “No,” a child should listen.

If you ask me, children need to be disciplined, and they actually thrive when parents set boundaries and follow through. The truth is that children feel safer when they know they won’t be allowed to break the rules without consequences. And I think that teaching “no means no” should be accomplished well before children are taken to potentially hazardous places. But you know what? People make mistakes from time to time, and everyone is entitled to make a few. But my dream for the future is that our mistakes are of little significance and that they don’t have the potential to alter lives with terribly tragic outcomes. To accomplish this, modification will need to be made to the majority of our public spaces.

Thank you for letting me tell my story and for all your concern, love and support. Hopefully, we will see each other on the other side ❤

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You can read more stories by Danna Colman here.

Writer and copyeditor. “What doesn’t kill us gives us something new to write about” ~ J. Wright

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