Grieving for Harambe

Grieving For and With Dian Fossey

Picture Credit: Cincinnati Zoo; Image search for “Harambe”

Many of us grieve for Harambe and mourn the loss of this beautiful Western Lowland Gorilla. Harambe and his kind are critically-endangered non-human animals. Maybe it is why our sense of loss is deeper. In this feeling, lies our ulterior motive.

Dian Fossey and Digit in Rwanda/Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

Dian Fossey, the renowned primatologist, was so far ahead in terms of her thinking and pursuit many decades ago, in her understanding of these gentle giants. Thanks to her tireless work, dedication and drive, we understand the Gorilla much more today. A year after her death (Dian Fossey was shot by poachers in 1985), a little boy — Levan Merritt, fell into a Gorilla enclosure. Observe the mighty Gorilla in this video living his life at a horrible zoo, reacting to a vulnerable, badly hurt child: . A human without weapons/a means of subjugation, is no physical match for a Gorilla. Yet…?

Dian Fossey must have loved these glorious non-human animals. How might she grieve for Harambe if she were alive?

Are we grieving for what was lost when we lost Dian and what she was fighting for? Are we making this connection?

As individuals and as a community, with Harambe’s death on our radar, we should stop for a moment to reflect and examine on our relationship with ALL non-human animals.

Worldwide, humans directly and indirectly, cause the unwarranted killing of non-human animals by the billions, by our actions.

Where is our outrage for this much killing, use, and abuse of non-human animals each day? Morally, why aren’t we in the same quandary, as we are with Harambe, or Cecil the Lion? Why do the big emblematic species alone, elicit our outrage?

Many iconic species such as the Lion, the Rhino…are fast-dwindling because of human actions, fueled by want (not need) and greed. It’s predicted that we will lose these icons forever, by this century. As a reminder, we’ve lost key species naming a few such as — the Stellar Sea Cow, the Passenger Pigeon, the West African Black Rhino, the Yangtze River Dolphin, the Spanish Ibex… The list continues to grow.

As intellectuals, we humans opine. We have placed ourselves high up on the evolutionary ladder compared to other non-human animals because of our intellect, our ability to choose, to discriminate, to invent, to create, and so on. Aren’t these comparisons moot? The other side, supposedly “low” on human intellectual ladder, doesn’t speak our language. We intelligent humans get to interpret non-human living beings in all ways and manner, seeming to know exactly what it is they feel. We determine the purpose for many (and this is all around our needs and wants). We label what it is they (must) do. We view all non-human animals as our commodities. We’ve assumed an authoritarian role with respect to non-human animals.


As Man continues to express that he is indeed at the highest rung of the ladder — intellectually speaking, every human generation is thus influenced tending to see the non-human species as dispensable. Placing ourselves so high up on the evolutionary ladder, has separated us from the natural world — morally, spiritually and physically.

Are we really “superior” as compared to trees? Can we make our own food and give it all away without discrimination whatsoever?

Please contemplate on the natural world and the other living.

The time has come to use our intellect to reverse many of our traditions wherein we use non-human animals. We’ve bred non-human animals by the trillions — for our food, our shoes, our furs, our entertainment, our sport, and our experiments so humans can be safe. All our use of non-human animals is thoughtless, wasteful and cruel for them! We breed non-human animals to ogle at them in zoos. We take sperm from the dead non-human to keep more of them alive but in captivity. This is how we traditionally teach our children to observe these non-human species.

Everything Man does is a business, in an industry, around a deeply cherished human tradition — at the expense of everything and everyone in the natural world!

Philip Wollen had said, “When we suffer, we suffer as equals. In their capacity to suffer, a dog is a pig, is a bear, is a boy!”

All animals stuffed in cages, crates or bigger enclosures as provided by zoos, suffer deeply. And the planet is reacting from this much suffering.

Every species has its role and place in our natural world. All animals are connected; humans and non-humans — to all the other living and the Earth that sustains all of us.

We can easily observe and thereby express outrage at the killing of a larger non-human animal; but, what about the little creatures like bees and butterflies that are also vanishing because of our actions? What about the other non-iconic critters, each with a critical role on the planet?

We expect our natural world to maintain its balance no matter what we do to it. And because it currently sustains us/wealthier humans, we care less about it being able to sustain our children and theirs, or even the vulnerable (all beings) at this time.

Aldo Leopold had quoted, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

Clearly by the Earth’s reactions (global warming resulting in climate change, now a climate emergency) we are doing it wrong! It is a time of reckoning.

As individuals, please let us do whatever we can to reverse our human traditions that compel suffering onto other living beings (including the trees). Please reflect on your inner nature of kindness and love for our Mother Earth. Let’s begin by eliminating the demand for non-human animal use in our life.

Consciously, let us allow our finite Mother Earth to heal. Let’s begin small and soon be doing what's impossible — live with respect for ALL life; even if we must change our deeply-held traditions.

  • Attempt being VEGAN. This will be an evolutionary process for you; stick with it. The kindness that will envelope you, will help you see poor, vulnerable humans and all the vulnerable, in a new light. You will begin acting in this light. Attempt being vegan a few days each week.
  • Don’t visit any place supporting non-human animals outside their natural environment (unless you know that the place is working to rehabilitate non-human animals back to the wild). See “Blackfish.” See “Cowspiracy.” Open your eyes to what’s cruel and do not be part of it.
  • Donate to legitimate animal support groups that are working tirelessly to re-balance our existence amongst other creatures.
  • At your work places, in your business, think of what you can do to grow a culture that will be giving to the planet. What groups can you support and get others to support? How can you save water use? How can you promote meatless food days? What can you do to establish a charity for vulnerable human beings bringing your co-workers with you? What technologies and tools can you promote and bring in, to influence the company culture to become more giving? None of these have to involve big chunks of money or time. Make giving a part of your actions at work.
  • Recycle everything you can. Reduce use of anything that you know causes harm to the natural world and other species. Rethink lavish lifestyles. Continue to think of the giving oceans and the giving trees. Remind yourself that everything we see is finite.
  • Stretch the use of your gadgets as much as you can. Remind yourself that human products pillage the natural environment.
  • Learn and share about “re-wilding” our planet. Talk to children about it. You will see that all humans have a common love — Mother Earth. From our busy lives, where do we take off on our vacations? — To places that still remind us of Mother Earth in her glorious form. If you have a green thumb, read about “humane gardening.” Encourage pollinators (bees, butterflies) to your home. Plant trees. Join groups that do. Donate to groups that do, in Africa, in US, anywhere.
  • Remind yourself of the beautiful Native American Indian saying — ‘We borrow our planet from our children.’

One individual at a time, let us contemplate our existence with species that have evolved with us humans, and act according to our conscience.

Image on Pinterest in a search for Animals and Earth

Only when we open our eyes, can we be touched. Being touched, we have the capacity to connect. As we become connected, we care. As we care, we invest in it. As we invest in it, we begin loving it. Only by loving it, we can protect it.

Thank you.

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