She Proceeds to Hang Out with Giraffes
by Meredith McLaughlin
A woman hopped over the fence into the lion exhibit at the Bronx Zoo last Saturday, September 27th. Caught on video, her close contact with the big cats was posted across multiple Instagram pages, including her own. The woman’s video opens with her handing her phone to a man, saying “Yeah I’m about to climb over, I want to get closer to them.” The man responds with “you’re not supposed to do that.” which is unheeded by the trespasser. “Go ahead and fall in there. See what happens.” he adds. The lion takes notice of the woman, making eye contact and stepping slightly closer to her. The woman starts waving at the animals, while someone in the background asks if the man holding the camera knows her. “Can you tell her to get back? It’s probably not safe” “I told her, she don’t listen to me.” In another video, the woman is seen waving at the lion, calling out “Hi baby, baby! Hi I love you!”
News outlets picked up on the story and it quickly became viral. CBS linked the incident with the story of Harambe, the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla who was killed after swinging around a child who fell into his enclosure. The Bronx zoo released a statement, saying “This action was a serious violation and unlawful trespass that could have resulted in serious injury or death. Barriers and rules are in place to keep both visitors, staff and animals safe. We have a zero tolerance policy on trespass and violation of barriers.” For a day, the identity of the woman was unknown, however on Friday, October 4th, Myah Autry has been identified as the trespasser.
Myah Laree has three different videos chronicling her encounter with the lions on Instagram. “I REALLY HAVE NO FEAR OF NOTHING BREATHING!!” says the caption on her first video. “I COME IN SHALOM INDIGO HEBREW ISRAELITE CHILD OF THE MOST HIGH… Everybody Lions Until they Meet Them in the Flesh. Let’s Just Say the Lions and the Children and Kids that Witnessed ‘Queen Empress Myan Laree Israelite’ Go In With the Lions!! And Made it Out Alive!” It is clear that Myah has little regrets over trespassing into a space meant to house wild animals. She also finds a lot of humor in the idea that “you can hear Grown Men Scared smh… Only People wasn’t scared was me and the Children all the Adults was Scared” Children, who have always dreamed of being in close proximity to and hanging out with wild animals probably would think her actions were cool. This does not justify her actions. Myah claims that she “entered His Home in Peace and He let me Leave in Peace. MY SOUL IS PURE THIS IS WHY I MADE IT OUT” Is there any way to tell that the lion could judge the purity of Myah’s soul? Maybe, but her luck might be better attributed to the moat that separates the lions from the area before the fence. The lion might not have been able to harm Myah with the moat between them, but the Zoo emphasizes that this encounter could have resulted in real harm. The majority of the comments on her videos are from those accosting Myah for her actions, with a small group of those arguing for her in support. Echoing sentiments expressed by CBS, one commenter wrote “Do you realize that if the lion attacked you’d be responsible for his death?”
Surprisingly, Myah’s encounter with the Bronx Zoo’s animals did not end with her foray into the lion’s den. On September 30th, Myah posted a video of her near giraffes at the zoo. It is not clearly stated, but you can see she’s beyond the fence and once again in the same space as the giraffes. She turns back to the camera at one point, saying “shout out to my fans.” Her caption is not much different from the others, saying “NOTICE WHEN I TOLD THE GIRAFFE I LOVED HIM OR HER IT CAME CLOSER. EVEN THE BABY BOTH WAGGED THEY TAILS WATCH” It may seem almost harmless attributing human emotions to wild animals, but anthropomorphization can lead to serious harm. We can not at all confidently say that the giraffes or lions that Myah interacted with registered the word “love,” or could tell that she had positive intentions. Acting as if the animals reacting to seeing her in their space means that they understand her emotions is a pretty big leap. It is irresponsible to say that the animals recognize “Queen Empress Myan Laree Israelite” as a justification to endanger herself and the animals and enter their habitat. Unfortunately, it’s clear that while these actions are not safe or smart, it does get attention. Myah’s first video with the lions has reached 55,822 views, 43,312 more than her last video. Like the viral “licking ice cream in the supermarket” trend, these viral videos can incite serious harmful behavior.