By now, the world's media outlets are pretty well saturated with the tragic news of the gorilla incident at the Cincinnati Zoo. Thanks to the wonderful world of keeper-social-media, I heard the news before it broke CNN or any of the other major media outlets, which gave me just enough time to brace myself from the flood of criticism that rained down on the zoo and the child's mother, both of which have since stepped up to defend themselves. It's ugly out there...
At the same time, there was one aspect of the whole tragedy which did make me smile - how quickly zoo and aquarium professionals around the world rallied to the aid of their friends in Cincinnati. Not in the "United-Front-Against-Anti-Zoo-Activists" way (though there is that). Mostly, it was out of a common bond, recognizing that fellow keepers were pained in a way that few other people could understand, and that their pain was being played out over and over again across television and internet. It was a desire to comfort those who needed it, with the understanding that, should such a tragedy ever be revisited upon one of us, Cincinnati keepers would likewise be there for us.
I've seen lots of keepers post cute or funny animal pictures to cheer up Cincinnati keepers. I've seen lots of "We Support the Cincinnati Zoo" memes. I've seen Jack Hanna and other celebrities of the zoo world defend the zoo's difficult decision. No internal fighting, no finger-pointing, no accusations, or insinuations that someone else would have made a better decision. Just comfort, sympathy, and support.
Sometimes I worry about the future of the zoo and aquarium field. Moments like this change that, though. Any profession with members who almost unanimously support one another in such times of tragedy, not out of self-interest but out of shared compassion, may very well have a long, bright future ahead.