Greeson: Harambe's death was tragic - and the right decision

Jay Greeson

Ron Magill has become somewhat of a national zoo celebrity.

As a wildlife expert and the communications director of the Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens, he has appeared on regional and national TV and radio programs through the years. He also has a long list of award-winning documentaries and a distinguished career loving, caring for and protecting animals of all walks of life.

A decade ago, Magill received the Wildlife Ambassador Award for his efforts on wildlife preservation.

Dude is a bona fide animal lover, no?

Well, in the aftermath of the shooting death of Harambe, the 450-pound gorilla who was shot and killed after a 3-year-old boy fell into the animal's enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo over the weekend, Magill's words rang especially true.

"It was devastating. At the end of the day the Cincinnati Zoo made the correct decision, and I stand behind it 100 percent," Magill said this week on the Dan LeBatard Show, which can be heard on ESPN 105.1 the Zone locally.

Now, his credentials are clear, but it's important to also know that Harambe was on loan to Cincinnati from Miami, where Magill developed a longstanding relationship with the animal.

"We're human beings, and you can get bonded to a gorilla," Magill said. "I knew this gorilla; his father was the first gorilla born [in Miami]. As much as we love these animals, there is no single animal life more important than a human life, especially that of a child."

The options were quickly weighed and the decision was right. There was almost assuredly going to be death, and the zoo officials made the call.

"They used every possible lure they could but once [the gorilla] saw that kid " Magill said. "That gorilla never wanted to hurt that kid, but he got agitated and [that] made him more dangerous.

"One split second the strength of that gorilla could have killed that kid."

Oh, how a large number of us need to hear and embrace those words.

The outrage about the killing of a gorilla has set fire to the animal-rights folks. And that fire burns to the edge of sanity.

To that end, there were more people upset at the crimes of Michael Vick against dogs than the crimes of other NFL stars against humans.

If that is your passion, well, that's your option. Animal cruelty and abuse should be challenged and fought and stopped.

Protecting the weakest among all walks of life is a noble goal. But that aim, in this scenario, was done by killing the animal and protecting the child.

Some are questioning the zoo and the safety measures. Was the fence adequate? Should there be bigger obstacles?

Maybe, but Magill was quick to point out that the measures were safe enough for almost 40 years before the weekend accident. He also added that billions of dollars go to zoos every year - more ticket-buyers in this country than all NFL, MLB and NBA fans combined - and there have been a very minute number of similar incidents.

As random and tragic as the accident was, there should be no squabble about the outcome.

There should not be any debate about the actions of putting Harambe down to protect the life of a child.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6273.