Animal death doesn’t usually attract sympathy because animals are always killed, mainly for food for non-vegetarians.
However, over the years, there have been documented cases of animals dying or being killed brutally under circumstances often caused by human errors.
Such cases usually lead to outcries from animal rights activists, government and non-government organizations, and individuals who demand justice and measures to alleviate future occurrences.
This article looks at famous animal death that shocked the world.
1. Harambe the Gorilla
The killing of Harambe was one such instance of animal death that generated worldwide outrage and reactions.
Harambe, a 17 years old, 400+ pound silverback gorilla, was largely unknown until his death on May 29th, 2016, at the Cincinnati Zoo.
On that fateful day, a three years old boy on a visit to the zoo with his mother somehow managed to find his way into the gorilla enclosure filled with shallow water where Harambe, fresh from celebrating his 17th birthday, was staying at that moment.
Video footage showed the gorilla occasionally dragging the kid through the water and pushing him.
Fearing for the child’s safety, the zoo authorities decided to take down Harambe with a shotgun rather than tranquilize him.
In their defense, using a tranquilizer dart might not have been effective because it could take time before the effects kicked in, and it could have agitated him, or he could end up crushing the child if he fell from the effects.
Harambe’s death led to widespread outcry and a social media frenzy, with several debates on whether shooting the gorilla was right.
While some people argued that Harambe wasn’t trying to harm the child but was protecting him, others were of the opinion that the gorilla’s behavior was erratic, and he could have crushed the child to death in split seconds.
The negligence of the child’s parent and the zoo authorities, which resulted in the child falling into the gorilla, was strongly condemned by all.
Funerals and memorials were held all over the world for Harambe, and several internet memes about him were posted and went viral.
Such was the popularity of the gorilla that American rappers Young Thug and Dumbfoundead each released songs named “Harambe,” and Tesla CEO Elon Musk also released a two minutes rap song titled “RIP Harambe” onto his Soundcloud.
In 2017, a statue of Harambe was placed outside the Jungle Jim International Market in Cincinnati, Ohio.
2. Cecil the Lion
Named after the famous British politician, businessman, and colonialist Cecil Rhodes, Cecil was killed on July 2nd, 2015, in his habitant of the Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.
According to documented records, Cecil was being studied and tracked by a team of researchers from the University of Oxford as part of a long-term study.
It was reported that Cecil was one of the most famous animals in the park and was a primary source of attraction for tourists.
The perpetrator, Walter Palmer, an American big game trophy hunter, had legally purchased a hunting permit and enlisted the help of two Zimbabwean hunters to help him track down and kill a lion, which was poor Cecil.
According to the reports, Palmer shot Cecil with an arrow from his compound bow, and although the animal managed to escape, it was hurt and in pain and was soon tracked down and killed by the two Zimbabwean hunters the following day, after which its body skinned and its head removed.
Since lion hunting was perfectly legal in Zimbabwe, as long as it was done within the confinement of the law, Palmer wasn’t formally charged with an offense, and the two Zimbabwean hunters were also cleared of the charges against them after being arrested.
However, given the popularity of Cecil, the killing sparked outrage from many prominent personalities across the world who called for the arrest and prosecution of Walter Palmer and for strengthening laws guiding against the poaching of wildlife.
Such concerns were, however, more prominent abroad than within the country of Zimbabwe and Africa at large, with some people wondering why the West was so concerned about the death of one lion.
The killing of Cecil brought about renewed efforts in the fight against the poaching of big African cats by trophy hunters.
3. Topsy the Elephant
Topsy was a female Asian elephant brought to the United States shortly after her birth and was added as a member of the Forepaugh Circus.
She immediately gained a reputation as a lousy elephant after killing a circus worker on May 28th, 1902.
According to some accounts, in a reportedly drunken state, the unfortunate victim named Fielding Blount provoked the elephant by wandering into her tent, where he threw sand into her face and burnt the tip of her trunk with a light cigar.
This incident, alongside some other accounts of Topsy injuring spectators and circus workers, albeit while provoked, prompted the circus management to sell her off to Coney Island’s Sea Lion Park, later renamed Luna Park.
At the park, Topsy was involved in several incidents with her handler William Alt who was reported to be cruel to her that seemed to endanger the lives of people around the island.
Due to these incidents, William Alt was fired, and Topsy was left without a handler.
The park management claimed they could no longer handle Topsy and decided to remove her.
But due to her reputation, nobody was willing to adopt her, and no circus or zoo wanted to take her.
On December 13th, 1902, the Luna Park management released a press statement saying they would publicly execute Topsy by electrocution and invited members of the public to witness it.
Initially, they wanted to execute her by hanging, but the decision was followed by outrage from animal rights groups, so they settled for electrocution instead.
On January 4th, 1903, Topsy was publicly executed on the bridge across the lagoon leading to Luna Park after she was fed carrots laced with 460 grams of potassium and then electrocuted with 6,000 volts of electricity for 10 seconds before she fell to the ground and was pronounced died some minutes later.
The killing of Topsy was recorded on Video by Edison film company and produced into a film, “Electrocuting an Elephant,” but fell into obscurity for many years until 1979, when it was shown as part of a documentary on Coney Island. It has been regarded as one of history’s most famous and brutal animal death.
4. Marius the Giraffe
Born on February 6th, 2014, in Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark, Marius was a male giraffe killed by the zoo authorities to cull the giraffe population.
At the age of two, the zoo authorities, under the recommendation of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), decided to put down Marius, citing reasons that his genes were over-represented in the giraffe population in the zoo.
This meant that the zoo already had several giraffes with the same genes as Marius, and they could no longer afford to keep him as he couldn’t add anything new to the gene pool.
According to reports, several offers were made by some members of the EAZA and some other individuals to adopt Marius.
Still, the Copenhagen Zoo authorities declined the offers for reasons best known to them.
On February 9th, 2014, Marius was shot dead with a bolt gun by the zoo authorities, and his body was publicly dissected in the presence of zoo visitors, including children.
The zoo defended its decision to publicly dissect the giraffe’s remains, claiming it was part of its animal education policy.
Some carcasses were fed to lions in the zoo, and others were sent to research projects.
The animal death sparked public outrage, with many individuals, including politicians condemning the decision of the zoo authorities not to accept offers to adopt the giraffe instead of putting it down.
5. Kanakota the Elephant
Using elephants to transport tourists and cultural parades is common in some parts of the world.
It has been campaigned against severely by animal rights activists who believe that such practices pose a danger to the elephants as they aren’t adapted for such.
One such animal death that sparked public outrage was the death of Kanakota, an 18 years old elephant from Sri Lanka.
Kanakota died from exhaustion after carrying three tourists on his back in the town of Sigiriya and walking in a parade the day before.
Kanakota had been carrying tourists on his back for four years, beginning in 2015 until October 16th, 2019, when he collapsed and never woke up.
His cause of death was given as exhaustion from being overworked. Several condemnations trailed the death of Kanakota, with animal rights activists in Sri Lanka demanding the passage of animal rights bills to end cruelty against animals.
Social media users paid tributes to the elephants while online petitions calling for justice for Kanakota generated thousands of signatures, with many people urging the government to enact laws to prevent the use of elephants for transportation in the tourism industry in Sri Lanka.
These poor animals deserve a better fate, and their deaths could have been avoided if humans learned to treat animals with the respect, attention, and care they deserve while also making sure not to encroach on their rights and provoke them.
We hope the calls for justice for these animals will encourage the government worldwide to take animal welfare laws more seriously and prevent more discriminating, unjustifiable, and brutal animal deaths.