A weekend outing at Cincinnati’s zoo on Saturday became tragic as a 4-year-old boy got hospitalized after he slipped into a gorilla enclosure – and zoo workers had to gun dead the rare gorilla, named Harambe, to protect the boy.
Cincinnati Zoo President Thane Maynard said the boy inched through a barrier and slithered an estimated 10 to 15 feet into the moat enclosing the habitat. He said the boy was not seriously injured by the fall.
The Cincinnati Fire Department reported in a press release explained that first responders “witnessed a gorilla who was violently dragging and throwing the child.”
Maynard said the zoo’s 17-year-old male western lowland gorilla, Harambe, took a grip of the boy and dragged him around. Two female gorillas were also in the enclosure.
The boy was with the 400-pound animal for about 10 minutes before the zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team deemed the situation “life-threatening,” Maynard said. The zoo had to kill the lowland gorilla to save the 4 yer old boy.
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Zoo director Thane Maynard while commenting on the incident on Facebook said that the boy was in “imminent danger,” leaving the zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team with no option but to shoot the 450-pound gorilla.
Maynard added that Tranquilizers may not have taken effect in time to save the boy while the dart might have agitated the animal, worsening the situation. He said:
“We are heartbroken about losing Harambe, but a child’s life was in danger and a quick decision had to be made.”
The words didn’t quench furious critics who said the gorilla’s death was uncalled for. Many slammed the boy’s mother for failing to play her role diligently. Neither the boy nor his family have been identified.
Many others opine that the boy’s parents should be held criminally responsible for the death of the gorilla. An online petition seeking “justice for Harambe” through criminal charges earned more than 8,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.
Others castigated the zoo for use of excessive force and demonstrators gathered outside the zoo on Sunday calling for a boycott.
An eye witness said she overheard the boy quipping to his mother about jumping into the water. And suddenly, a splash was heard which drew the crowd’s attention to the boy in the water.
The crowd began shouting drawing Harambe’s attention to the boy, the witness narrated.
Initially, it appears as if Harambe was trying to help the boy as he stood him up but moments later he pulled up the boy’s pants.
Harambe dropped the boy into a corner of the moat as the crowd’s screams grew. On dropping him by the moat, the gorilla moved closer to him, covering him with his body. Appearing to be agitated by the shouts, the gorilla did another grabbing, taking a hold the boy’s foot
He dragged him through the water and out of the moat atop the habitat.
And that time, the gorrilla became furious when the boy tried to back away from the gorilla, the animal aggressively pulled him back into his body and really wasn’t going to let him get away.
The barrier would take some effort to access, showing that the little boy had little attention from his mom. The witness told CNN:
“I don’t think it was as easy as standing up and falling in. He actually had to climb under something, through some bushes and then into the moat.”
The zoo defended its safety barriers, saying this is the first time the Gorilla’s ward has experienced a breach since the exhibit opened in 1978.
The exhibit is inspected regularly by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and the United States Department of Agriculture, and adheres to safety guidelines, according to the zoo.