The question in this blog’s headline is deliberately meant to raise the hairs on your neck.
Would you leave your baby in the care of ANY gorilla, regardless of its size or weight?
Damian Aspinall is a remarkable environmentalist and animal rights advocate, dedicating his life to taking zoo animals and bringing them back to their natural habitats through his Back to the Wild Foundation. Think of the project as a real-life version of the children’s movie “Madagascar,” except there are no celebrity voiceovers or musical dance numbers.
Before completely leaving the transplanted animals to protected wildlife preserves, the foundation hires human “eco-nannies” to watch over the animals and make sure they are adapting to the brand new environment.
Aspinall has just relocated three endangered black rhinos back to Africa and has been heavily involved with protecting gorillas his entire life. It is the gorilla which is now generating an immense amount of media attention for his work — as well as sparking a wider conversation on the safety of leaving children alone with animals.
Twenty-two years ago, Aspinall plunked his then 18-month-old daughter Tansy into the gorilla cage at the Howletts Wild Animal Park in Britain and videotaped the playful interaction. In a never-before-seen home video that is now spreading virally on the Internet, the gorilla is seen treating the toddler like a doll, gently carrying her around the cage. Aspinall shot the video to prove how gentle gorillas are, but he was hesitant to share it publicly out of concern there may be a backlash about his parenting judgment.
“If you’re brought up with the gorillas and you’re part of the family group, it’s really not risky at all. And I can understand how some people would find that hard to believe but it just isn’t,” the activist recently told ABC News. “These animals are very, very gentle animals and the hope is that people will see that and want to help gorillas.”
But as ABC News points out, wild animals are called “wild” for a reason, and that’s because you can never really predict their behavior with absolute certainty. During a 2004 Dallas Zoo escape, a gorilla bit a three year-old boy in the chest and collapsed his lung. And “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin took a lot of flack for holding his one-month-old infant while feeding alligators in an ill-advised 2004 publicity stunt.
Of course, perhaps the most infamous case of a “friendly animal” becoming a deadly enemy is the infamous 2006 Sea World attack, which involved a killer whale biting its trainer’s leg and dragging him underwater, refusing to let go. If an experienced trainer is still vulnerable, what does that say about the rest of us?
What are your thoughts? Would you ever leave your child with a wild animal?
Perhaps the conversation need not be so hypothetical. How protective are you with your children around large dogs who are touted as friendly?
Watch the ABC News coverage of the gorilla story and decide for yourselves.