Paul Little at large
Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Parents not to blame for child's escape

It's probably fair to say that Deonne Dickerson and Michelle Gregg aren't the world's most competent parents. For one thing, they struggle to make the crucial distinction between a creche and a gorilla enclosure.

But even if they were the worst parents who ever lived that doesn't make them answerable for the shooting of Harambe the 17-year-old gorilla who briefly had their 4-year-old son in his paws at Cincinnati Zoo.

That was a responsible decision made by zoo authorities. And if my child ended up in a gorilla's paws, for whatever reason, I would be wanting exactly that responsible decision made quick-smart, no questions asked.

The parents are grateful for the survival of their child.

Those they thanked included God for being, among other things, "the awesome God that he is".

Being awesome is one of God's key performance indicators, but I'm sure it's still great to get that sort of feedback, even after all this time. Must make that whole creating the universe thing worthwhile.

There have been claims that Harambe was "protecting" the unnamed child, but it's a very short jump from, "Oh, look, he's holding his hand," to "Oh, the humanity" and it would have been foolhardy to risk that gap being crossed.

Gorillas are wonderful creatures, to be sure. Beautiful. Majestic. Mad about mist.

But we don't use gorilla as a synonym for brute thuggery because of their childcare abilities.

And Harambe was in a zoo - in gorilla terms, he wasn't having the greatest quality of life. He was not just out of his natural habitat but at the mercy of every out-of-control toddler who mistook the lord of the jungle for a cuddly photo opportunity.

He might have been the Dalai Lama of gorillas, who would have telepathically passed on to Boy X some ancient simian wisdom before returning him to his parents with a nosegay he and the child had picked themselves. Just possibly.

But you'll note that none of the zoo staff - the people who knew Harambe and his ways better than any of the commentators - showed any eagerness to get into the enclosure and reason with the 180kg scamp.

How do toddlers end up in gorilla cages? Probably the same way they end up behind cars in driveways. Or in swimming pools. They survive only at the mercy of a capricious universe.

It's a marvel any baby makes it to puberty in a world full of stairs to fall down, knives to find and roads to run on to.

Only someone who has never had a child - let alone four, as is the case with this family - could blame the parents for this.

Zoos, with something to delight a kid's eye in every direction, are the worst places for keeping control of the little demons. No parent has ever been in public with a child without losing sight of it from time to time.

Usually they turn up safe and sound. Sometimes they turn up in gorilla enclosures. It's ridiculous to assert that whether or not he survived should have been left up to fate or Harambe.

On a brighter note, Labour and the Greens are hooking up. Analogies to a marriage were quickly drawn at this exciting news, and they couldn't be more apt. It was like when you hear that your cousin who everyone had given up on ever seeing hooked has finally got engaged, and then you find out it's to the village idiot.

- Herald on Sunday

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