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Posted by on May 30, 2016 in Media | 13 comments

Presser Questions of Cincy Zoo Director Seem Wrong

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Thane Maynard, the director of the Cincinnati Zoo, has been subjected to a grilling during a press conference dealing with the events at the zoo yesterday.

One cable network trailed a headline beneath Maynard, as they carried the event live: “Zoo Director Takes Questions on Decision to Take Life of Gorilla.”

It feels like some in the media are in persecution mode with this story.

Maynard, who has hosted a radio spot called ‘The 90 Second Naturalist’ on public radio for years, has an obvious love for the animal world and has served as director of the Cincinnati Zoo, one of the best such institutions in the world, for a long time. The zoo has an impeccable record for keeping safe all those who come to see and learn about the animal world, as well as for giving proper care and respect to its animals.

But Maynard was peppered with endless questions that seemed to impugn the integrity and the record of both the zoo and himself. He endured it patiently, which, of course, he needed to do. Otherwise, he would be susceptible to charges of cover-up and obfuscation. It still seems like over-the-top treatment of a man and a zoo with well-earned reputations.

Some questions are needed, of course.

But the whole approach of the media to this story, as evidenced by the treatment given to Maynard, seems wrong to me. The necessity of taking the gorilla’s life is obvious. The fact that this is an accident for which the zoo bears no blame is clear too. Maynard and the handlers at the zoo should be applauded for the decision they made to end the gorilla’s life, not treated as suspects in a murder investigation.

Shouldn’t that headline have been something more like: “Zoo Director Takes Questions on Decision to Save Child’s Life”?

I think so.

[By the way, the web site of Cincinnati’s channel 12, placed the story of Maynard’s press conference under the headline: “WATCH: Full press conference on child falling into zoo’s gorilla enclosure.” That seems more like it.]

[Blogger Mark Daniels is the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church, Centerville, Ohio.]

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  • Shouldn’t that headline have been something more like: “Zoo Director Takes Questions on Decision to Save Child’s Life”?

    Imagine the other possible headline:

    Child Mauled to Death by Gorilla because of Zoo’s Concern for Animal’s Life

  • JSpencer

    There were no “good” decisions available, but in the end an endangered animal was killed because humans screwed up, which is why such animals are endangered in the first place. That said, if the child had belonged to any of us we would have been the first to pull the trigger. Tragic…

  • KP

    The fact that this is an accident for which the zoo bears no blame is clear too.

    Not even close.

    Cincinnati Zoo President Thane Maynard said the boy crawled through a barrier

    I hope this zoo has _very_ deep pockets.

    • adelinesdad

      I read on another article on TMV that this is the only time in its 38 year history that anyone has managed to get into the gorilla enclosure. That’s despite I’m sure many adventurous, imperfectly supervised kids who may have had a mind to. Certainly there should be an investigation into how he was able to get in, but until shown otherwise I’m willing to give the zoo the benefit of the doubt that this was just a very particularly determined kid and/or perfect storm of factors that permitted his entry.

      • KP

        I am also partial to the zoo. However, I live in San Diego. I happen to know that if your home is not surrounded by a fence that is at least six feet high and has a gate that locks, that if a child sneaks in and drowns in your pool on your property you can be found liable. That’s just a little ol’ private home. Legal counsel advises homes not to remove wrought iron fences around your pool, inside your property and inside your six foot fence.

        Compare that to a zoo who charges a fee to tens if not hundreds of thousands or a million visitors over 35 years.

        Legally … there is no excuse for a child to jump into a gorilla’s living room.

        • adelinesdad

          Legally, I think you have a point. Even if a public attraction like this does everything by the book, being sued every so often for some fluke accident is probably just built into the cost of doing business. I’m not too concerned about the hit to the zoo’s finances. My concern is mostly for the mob mentality in some of the social media reactions.

    • I am sure that the zoo will bear no liability whatsoever in this situation. As has been pointed out, the barriers have proven effective with hundreds of thousands of other children for thirty-eight years. This was an exceptional circumstance and, like others and unlike Maynard, who is a very good guy, I question what the parents were doing.

      • Slamfu

        Well there is a thing in the law called “No fault liability” which basically means some things are just inherently dangerous, and while not illegal to do, if anyone gets hurt as a result then the blame is automatically assigned. Zoo’s keeping wild animals from hurting people is one of them, and regardless of the precautions taken by the zoo, they are legally liable for injuries and deaths and such. So I’m pretty sure they will bear liability in this if there are lawsuits, but since the child was saved there probably won’t be any.

  • adelinesdad

    As for the parents, I am disturbed by our society’s rush to judgment of the parents (in this and other cases). I understand the general concept that parents are responsible for their children, but it’s unrealistic to expect perfect supervision. I fall on the paranoid end of the parenting spectrum. When I go to the zoo, I worry about a lot of things–them getting lost, sunburned, hungry after dropping their sandwich on the ground, or that they might cry about something and disturb other visitors. For better or worse, I spend a lot of mental energy trying to prevent and prepare for all of these scenarios.

    But if I had my child on a leash and expressed the concern that they otherwise might fall into a gorilla enclosure, most of the people now condemning the parents would roll their eyes and consider me overly paranoid. That’s not a realistic concern. There’s a reason this one case where it happened made national headlines–because it doesn’t happen hardly ever, despite lots of imperfect parents with adventurous kids out there.

    • KP

      Mostly agree on the parent condemnation. I was (am) rather paranoid about my children. There was a paradigm shift when they started to drive at 16 and then prepared to go to off to college. I said to myself, if you don’t lighten up they may go crazy when they are first on their own at school.

      I said to them each, literally, if you are going to do something stupid, make sure you are smart about it.

      My four year never would have made it into the gorilla mist. There was too much concern for dad’s reaction.

      • JSpencer

        I was one of those children who could have found a way into the enclosure. I wasn’t, however, one of those children who would have thought it was a good idea.

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