Following modern traditions of zoo design, Harambe’s enclosure was separated from the public by a metal and wire fence of just three feet, though that sat atop a more severe 15-foot ledge. According to a 2015 video released by the Cincinnati Zoo, Harambe’s home was “the world’s first barless outdoor gorilla exhibit” when it opened in 1978. While it now seems this decades-old decision doomed Harambe, at the time of construction, the barless design was likely praised as a more “humane” way to house captive animals. It’s an odd adjective under the circumstances: Animals don’t care about bars—they care about boundaries, and even barless enclosures limit their range.
We tend to think of faux-habitats like the Cincinnati Zoo’s gorilla pen as somehow better for the creatures they house, when in fact they are most likely just the product of our own selfish desires. (Source)