Sunday, May 29, 2016

It's A Zoo Out There

Something of a tragedy here at the Cincinnati Zoo this weekend as Harambe, one of the gorillas at the zoo's primate enclosure was shot and killed by keepers who were trying to protect a 4-year-old boy who had climbed into the habitat.

The encounter at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden occurred Saturday afternoon when the boy crawled through a barrier and fell into a moat at the facility’s outdoor gorilla center, zoo director Thane Maynard told reporters.

The boy wasn’t seriously hurt in the fall, Maynard said at a news conference, but after he dropped into the enclosure, the gorilla, a 17-year-old male named Harambe, “went down and got him.” The animal grabbed and dragged the child, Maynard said, and that’s why officials determined that the boy’s life was in danger.

“It seemed very much by our professional team, our dangerous-animal response team, to be a life-threatening situation,” Maynard said. “And so the choice was made to put down, or shoot, Harambe. And so he’s gone.”

The 4-year-old boy was taken to a children’s hospital, according to a news release from the zoo. His name was not released.

“It’s a sad day all the way around,” Maynard said. “The right choice was made; it was a difficult choice. We have protocols and procedures, we do drills with our dangerous-animal response team. But we’ve never had a situation like this at the Cincinnati Zoo, where a dangerous animal needed to be dispatched in an emergency situation.”

Zoo employees opted to put down the animal instead of using tranquilizers because in “agitated” situations, it can take time for the drugs to take effect, Maynard said. Harambe also would have had a “dramatic response” to a tranquilizer’s effect, he said.

Maynard praised the workers tasked with handling the incident, saying they had a “tough choice.”

“Because they saved that little boy’s life,” he said. “It could have been very bad.”

The child squeezed into an area where he shouldn't have, getting away from his busy mother, and climbed the wall outside the Gorilla World area. He then fell into the moat surrounding the enclosure, and Harambe dragged the boy out of the water.

That was enough for the keepers to make the call to put the gorilla down.

There's going to be a lot of second guessing here, about if it was the right choice, if the zoo could have done more to protect the enclosure, if the child's mother could have stopped the boy, if the zoo should have had a silverback in the first place.

I don't know the honest answers to these questions, but they need to be answered, I think.

Sunday Long Read: Under The Sea

Mitch Moxley brings us an amazing piece over at The Atavist, the story of Chinese billionaire Jon Jiang and his spectacular, $100 million failure at turning Beijing into Hollywood. 

The script called for an epic battle. In the movie’s third act, the forces of the Eight Faery Kingdoms defend their aquatic empires from annihilation by the evil Demon Mage and his spectral legions. Five hundred extras would play the opposing armies.

But in January 2010, when Jonathan Lawrence, the director of Empires of the Deep, showed up for the shoot, in Qinyu, a resort town in coastal China, he saw only about 20 extras, mostly ornery Russians complaining that they hadn’t been paid in weeks.How would he turn 20 people into 500? On top of that, their costumes—swamp green rubber suits decorated with scales, octopus suckers, and shells—looked like poorly made Halloween getups. Some of them had fins glued to their heads.

Lawrence was in most ways a strange choice to be running a massive film set in China. A 40-something director from Los Angeles with just one feature-film credit, he made his living directing shorts, commercials, and music videos. But then again, ever since he saw Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arkas a teenager in 1981, he had waited for this chance.

The offer to direct a fantastical adventure movie was a dream come true.Empires of the Deep would be China’s Avatar—a reportedly $100 million production featuring mermaid sirens, Greek warriors, pirates, and sea monsters, complete with cutting-edge special effects and an international cast. The film’s producers hoped that it would break through the cultural barrier that had frustrated producers on both sides of the Pacific for years: a Hollywood-style blockbuster made in China that would captivate audiences around the world.

But the offer came with strings attached. Massive strings. The film’s producer was Jon Jiang, a billionaire real estate mogul and film fanatic who had writtenEmpires and put up much of the funding himself. On set he gave actors preposterous and contradictory directions. But mostly he deployed his assistants to watch Lawrence’s every move and report back to him.

The beach location, which would stand in for Mermaid Island, home of an ancient race of mer-folk, had much of what Lawrence required—a long stretch of coast, endless ocean beyond it—but a few weeks earlier, when he inspected the location, he couldn’t help but notice the row of luxury resort buildings at the edge of the sand. A bit modern for Mermaid Island, he thought.

Lawrence joked to the assistant director that they’d have to build a wall to hide the resort from view.

Let's just say that the story of this disaster is a thousand times more interesting than the attempted movie itself, and would probably make a better film.  It's a hell of an adventure though.

Enjoy it for your long weekend.
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