On Tuesday, Big Bang Theory actress Kaley Cuoco spoke out about the killing of a gorilla named Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo on Saturday, calling it both "senseless" and "horrendous." In an Instagram post published under the account @normancook, Cuoco expressed immense sadness, though she was unwilling to forego her penchant for humor entirely. "I mean let's be honest, I wear the wrong sweatpants and the entire world has something to say about it," Cuoco wrote, preempting a wave of criticism. A photo of Harambe, the western lowland silverback gorilla who was shot, is featured in the post. There are fewer than 175,000 members of the critically endangerednspecies left in the wild, and 765 in zoos.
Zoo officials have stood by their decision to shoot the gorilla, claiming that a tranquilizer dart could have taken up to 30 minutes to affect the 450-pound animal. Gladys Porter Zoo facilities director Jerry Stones, who helped raise Harambe, told NBC that he didn't believe the gorilla intended to hurt the child. However, he added that he agrees with the zoo's decision to not take any chances:
He's so big that he could accidentally hurt that child, even if he didn't mean to. Consequently, he had to pay the price, no matter how fair or unfair everybody believes it is.
Critics such as Cuoco strongly disagree that an animal should have to pay the price for a human's mistakes.
By Wednesday, her post had received over 96,000 likes and 5,300 comments, both highly supportive and intensely critical. The actress has become a notable animal rights and rescue activist after joining forces with The Humane Society of the United States. A two-minute Humane Society ad features her speaking out against Canadian seal hunts. The commercial aired just a day after she spoke out against the Cincinnati Zoo's decision.
Famous primatologist Jane Goodall's reaction also garnered attention. The Jane Goodall Institute released an email written by the scientist, addressed to Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard. Goodall focused on how the gorilla put his arm around the boy, and referenced an incident in Chicago in which a female gorilla saved a child who fell into her enclosure. Since gorillas are socially intelligent animals, she went on to ask how the two other gorillas living with Harambe reacted to the event. She told Maynard:
Anyway, whatever, it is a devastating loss to the zoo, and to the gorillas ... I feel so sorry for you, having to try to defend something which you may well disapprove of.
Those who hope to never see an incident like this occur again created a petition asking the Cincinnati Zoo, Hamilton County Child Protection Services, and Cincinnati Police Department to hold the parents responsible. By Wednesday, over 400,000 people had signed it. Their request was partially met on Tuesday, when the Cincinnati Police announced that it will be investigating the three-year-old boy's family.