Free Kijito... or He Will Free Himself
A brutal fight, just months after Kijito smashed the glass of his enclosure, begs the question: why did we put him in a cage?
by Wayne Hsiung
Yesterday, millions of people across the world watched a viral video of two silverback gorillas, Kijito and Tatu, breaking out into a brutal fistfight as onlookers at the Omaha Zoo gawked. Many commentators noted that it looked exactly like a schoolyard fight, though far more violent. This is the second notorious incident at this particular zoo, which was made famous less than a year ago when one of the gorillas smashed into the glass in a fit of rage over a child's taunts. (The video of Kijito attempting to free himself is here, but we won't show the fight, out of respect for the two victims. Those who are curious can easily find the video online.)
Incidents like these beg the question: why are we holding any animals in captivity at all? Gorillas have the desire to range in 15 square kilometer habitats. They form social groupings and have no walls or bars to stop them, if they need to get away from a negative situation. But in zoos, around 4000 of gorillas across the world live in tiny enclosures where there is no escape from bullies, from the onlookers' glare, and from the same four walls that will keep them trapped for decades. This is the same grim truth for virtually all animals who live in captivity.
If animals are similar enough for us to gawk at them, and marvel at their similarities (even in anxiety, conflict, and pain), then surely they are similar enough for us to give them their freedom? If animals have agency, that they express through acts of resistance (such as attempting to smash through a wall), who are we to deny their rights?
The time has long passed. Too many captives have endured too much pain. Let's give the animals what they always deserved: freedom.
Join us in taking action to see that vision come to reality.