I am shaken up by the killing of innocent Harambe, the gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo. I am also angry at the negligent parents, who according to witnesses, let their child run wild and who, smilingly and cavalierly told the press “accidents happen.” It was not news to them that their child was rambunctious. That is why they needed to be even more vigilant This disturbing incident bothers me so much becuase it personally hits close to home for me. I too was in a gorilla cage with a gorilla. I wasn’t there because I fell into the cage like the little 4 year old boy. Instead, I was in a cage with a gorilla becaused I was forced into the cage by my high school journalism teacher , the late Marlene E. Adams.
This woman had the audacity to put me and 25 of my fellow 15 and 16 year old students into a very upset gorilla’s cage at the Crandon Park Zoo. Why did she do it? It was because she thought it would make a creative photo for the yearbook.
This is the actual gorilla, who was in the back of the cage at the Crandon Park Zoo , where he and my fellow students wete only separated by a metal partition which you can see below. The partition is to the far right of the photo. It had vents at the top, so that the gorilla could breathe and get air. In back of that partition was a very angry gorilla banging his hands and making screeching noises as students entered the cage and as they posed for a group photograph.
The photo above and in the photo below is the actual cage that I was in with 25 of my fellow students. ‘I didn’t want to show a group shot which would reveal all of the students identities in the cage because of privacy concerns and out of respect for many of the students who may even look exactly the same decades later and who may not appreciate that their photo appearing publicly showing them in a gorilla cage.
The hand to the left of the photo above is that of Mrs. Marlene E. Adam’s, guiding the photo shoot and instructing students what to do while in the cage.Below is a photo of Mrs. Adams ( from her Facebook page) as I remembered her .
Mrs. Adams’ idea for our being in the gorilla cage was her attempt at being clever and creative and illustrating the “infinite monkey theorem” which states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. That’s why she directed some of the students to hold typewriters in the monkey cage as you can see in the photo above Mrs.Adams.
You can get an idea of how it was to be in that cage. What strikes me now is how terribly small that cage was. There was no habitat back then. There was no grass or rocks or trees. The gorilla couldn’t roam around and get a change of scenery. Instead, the gorilla was essentially confined to a small jail cell. The gorilla was there so that people could walk by and gawk at him. As I look back at this photo and think of how cruel it was that the gorilla was in such a small cell adds insult to injury.
At the time this incident happened, my fellow 15 and 16 year old students were just told to show up at the Crandon Park Zoo’ Gorilla Cage on a Saturday morning. We just thought we would simply be standing in front of the Gorilla Cage and have our photo taken. WE had no idea that we would be going inside the gorilla’s cage.
As the zookeeper opened a Gorilla Cage, Mrs. Adams told us all to get into the cage. I was shocked and appalled and refused to get in. I could hear the gorilla banging in the back of the cage, The only thing separating the gorilla from the students was a thin metal sliding partition. As the students entered the cage, the gorilla banged louder and louder on the metal partition. He got angrier and angrier and louder and louder.
I refused to follow the other students into the cage. Even at 16, I instinctively thought it was wrong to upset this poor gorilla by having unfamiliar people in his cage. When I heard him banging in the back of the cage, I was so scared that he would break loose and attack everyone (and rightfully so). I wouldn’t blame him as his territory was being invaded by many unwelcome guests.
When I shared my concerns with Mrs. Adams, she said I was being silly and proceeded to humiliate me to get into the cage, even threatening to take away my coveted yearbook position for the upcoming year if I didn’t get into the cage and stop everyone’s wasting time. I asked if I could be photographed standing outside of the cage, but she wouldn’t hear of it. In fact she yelled at me to get into the cage and told me to stop acting like a prima donna and to stop holding everybody up as she insisted I just get into the cage.
The Zookeeper also told me that there was nothing to fear as he escorted me into the cage since I was the last person to enter. Reluctantly, I walked into the cage but stood right near the door of the cage, way at the back so that I could be the first to escape should the gorilla break through the metal partition and get loose.
It was awful to be in that cage and I felt like to cry the entire time the photos were being snapped. In fact the look on my face is sad, upset and disgisted. It smelled terrible in there and there was fruit all over the cement floor.
One student in the group found the gorilla’s banana and held it up for the photo as you can see in the photo above ( the photo is on the side). While Mrs. Adams encouraged his holding the gorilla’s banana, I immediately let him know that I thought it wasn’t a good idea to touch the gorilla’s banana because now the gorilla couldn’t eat it after it had a stranger’s human scent on it.
Another student grabbed on to the gorilla’s chain with his human hands as you can see in the photo above to the left. This was the chain where there was a tire attached, which allowed the gorilla to swing. All I kept thinking about during the photo shoot was I how awful the poor gorilla would feel after 25 or so humans with their human smells touched his belongings and invaded his cage. I certainly wouldn’t like it if 25 gorillas came into my home without permission and invaded my personal space.
I was the last to get into the cage and the first one out of the cage.I couldn’t get out of the cage fast enough. As soon as the photoshoot was over I sped home, took of my clothes, threw them into the hamper and ran into the shower to wash off the Gorilla smell.
Wondering why I seemed so upset and puzzled why I had taken a shower right after I walked into the house, my parents asked me what was going on. I shared with them how Mrs. Adams forced me and the the students to get into a gorilla cage to take a photo for the yearbook. Needless to say, they were shocked and appalled that a teacher would put student’s lives in jeopardy by putting them in a age with an angry almost half a ton gorilla. They were thankful that I was OK and survived this ordeal. But they were also very upset with Mrs. Adams.
I put this upsetting incident from high school behind me. But whenever I thought about it, it filled me with anxiety when I thought of what COULD have happened. It wasn’t until this incident with Harambe and this little boy that my feeling of sadness and anxiety about my being in a gorilla cage -me, a 16 year old girl with a promising future ahead of her, resurfaced.
What would have happened if the gorilla broke through the partition and tried to harm one of the teenagers in the cage? What if he tried to harm me as I tried to run out of his cage?
Unlike Harambe who realized this was a child who was suddenly in his cage and needed protection, in my case the gorilla would have been furious that such a large group entered his domain and would have acted accordingly- most likely with violence. He would have seen 25 unfamiliar people and most likely he would have lashed out in anger as a means of protecting himself and his territory. Someone could have easily been killed.
Perhaps the gorilla at the Crandon Park Zoo would have been shot to save the rest of the students or even me. Had that happened I would not only have been devastated that a student was harmed, but equally as devastated that the innocent gorilla would have been sacrificed simply because some irresponsible teacher made us enter his domain.
My anger is at Mrs. Adams, who died a few years ago. I wish she was alive today so that I could tell her just how irresponsible she was in putting the lives of 25 teenagers in jeopardy. In this day an age, Mrs. Adams would have lost her teaching credentials and could have easily been sued by students and their parents as she did not have the parent’s permission to put their children into a gorilla cage. The Zookeeper, who was no doubt seduced by Mrs. Adam’s persuasive ways by allowing the photoshoot to be done for the sake of art and creativity, would have been fired for his lack of good judgement, He along with the Crandon Park Zoo could have been sued as well.
After all these decades , the trauma and the anxiety of the incident of me in a cage with an angry gorilla in the back of his own cage, pounding his fists on a metal partition and possibly breaking through the partition, and potentially attacking the teenage invaders in anger because they dominated his cage ( and rightfully so) has resurfaced for me when I herd of the little boy falling into the cage.
I hold the child’s negligent parents responsible , just as I completely put blame on the late Mrs. Marlene E. Adams for her negligence and irresponsible behavior in putting the lives of 15 and 16 year old children in jeopardy, including my own life. It is ironic that Mrs. Adams was a member of MENSA, a society for those who have a high IQ yet she didn’t seem to have the common sense or a high EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient). to stop herself from putting so many young lives at risk.