Cincinnati Zoo and the Gorilla: A Biblical Perspective

by Ken Ham on May 31, 2016
Also available in Español

The news that a gorilla was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo to save the life of a three-year-old boy who slipped into the gorilla enclosure has hit the world news. Here in our Cincinnati area, it’s currently the main topic of discussion on radio talk shows, TV newscasts, and other media.


Well, I have found it very eye opening to read the many comments on social media about the incident. Many people are stating that zoo officials made the right decision, yet others say the gorilla should not have been shot. Some blame the zoo; others blame the child’s mother.

Now nobody on our staff was there to see what happened. However, I have no doubt that a world-class zoo like this one, which I have visited dozens of times, had prepared for the possibility of an encounter between a wild animal and a zoo visitor. From my vantage point, the zoo professionals involved made the best decision they could, given the circumstances.

From a biblical perspective, there are some comments we can make.

  1. The Bible teaches, “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:22). Yes, sin has affected the entire universe and all life, including the behavior of gorillas!
  2. When God created Adam and Eve, He gave humans dominion over all the animals: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’” (Genesis 1:26).
  3. After the Flood, God reiterated this role of dominion. But in a fallen world, this mandate becomes harder because of the effects of sin: “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand” (Genesis 9:2).
  4. Humans were made very different from the animals, in that humans were made in the image of God: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27, emphasis added).

So working from the perspective of a biblical worldview, I would state the following regarding the gorilla incident at the Cincinnati Zoo:

  1. The young boy (unlike the gorilla, which is just an animal) is made in the image of God and is a human being who has a soul that will live forever.
  2. We cannot impose human emotion/morality on a gorilla—it is not made in the image of God. We should not anthropomorphically assume that the gorilla's decency would have kept him from harming the boy in the enclosure had the zoo professionals not intervened so quickly.
  3. Because we live in a fallen world, sin has affected everything, including gorillas and three-year-olds.
  4. Therefore when deciding what to do in a situation where a human being, made in God’s image, is in the control of a sin-cursed animal with no sense of human morality, we must do all we can to protect the child from harm.

Professionals working in this fallen universe (whether they are Christians or not) have trained for such incidents like this, and they need to be applauded for making the best decision they can under the circumstances to protect the human being. I have no doubt that’s what happened at the Cincinnati Zoo.

One news source stated,

Columbus Zoo Director Emeritus Jack Hanna says officials at the Cincinnati Zoo made the right decision in shooting a gorilla after a . . . boy fell in to the gorilla enclosure Saturday. “There was absolutely no other decision to make,” Hanna told NBC4, adding that a zoo’s “responsibility is the safety of our visitors, our animals and our staff.” . . . Hanna says the gorilla’s behavior was unpredictable and could have turned lethal in a slit [sic] second.

We are all saddened by such an event when an animal is killed and a child is harmed. But it is a reminder that we do live in a fallen world—and a reminder of the value of each human life made in the image of God.

It’s also a reminder to me of the people who complain about an animal dying but inconsistently support or condone the murdering of 58 million children by abortion in America since Roe v. Wade!

And while it is sad that such a magnificent animal had to die, I praise God that the boy—who is made in the image of God—was saved from the gorilla. We hope that as the boy grows up he will be saved by the Lord Jesus Christ for eternity in heaven.

By the way, our family obtains yearly passes to the Cincinnati Zoo, and I will continue to take my grandchildren there from time to time.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

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