The Cincinnati Zoo had to make a quick decision to put a beloved lowland gorilla to death in order to save a child who fell into the habitat on May 28, 2016. The zoo is under heavy criticism for the death of the animal as a result of what critics are calling an unmaintained child as reported by CNN. Critics are saying that the parents should be held responsible for not paying attention to their child while visiting the exhibit.
The Cincinnati Zoo’s Gorilla World exhibit has never experienced a breach since it opened in 1978. The 4-year old climbed through some bushes and over a fence and fell down 15 feet into the habitat. A video recorded by a Cincinnati Zoo visitor shows the boy suddenly in the shallow end of a moat inside the habitat looking up at Harambe a 17-year-old lowland gorilla. For a moment, it seemed as though the gorilla was trying to help the child, standing him up and appearing to fix his pants. As the crowd grew panicked and began screaming the gorilla began dragging the child through the water from one side of the habitat to the other.
Cincinnati Fire Department and zoo emergency response personnel were the first to arrive on the scene to assess their options for handling the situation. The Cincinnati Zoo emergency response team consists of veterinarians, full-time zookeepers, maintenance workers, security staff, and zoo leadership. The Cincinnati fire department report described that the gorilla was acting aggressively with the child upon its arrival. The zoo released a statement that the child was in immediate danger and the decision was made to put Harambe to death. The zoo released a statement of mourning via their Facebook page after the incident and many animal lovers offered criticism regarding the killing of the animal.
Critics believe that the parents of the child who slipped into the enclosure should be held responsible for the death of the gorilla. An online petition has already gained 8,000 signatures in less than 24 hours to petition to hold the parents criminally liable for the incident. Other critics believe that the Cincinnati Zoo acted too hastily in putting the animal to death. PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment, issued a statement that the incident further shows why animals should not be kept in captivity.
Officials for the Cincinnati Zoo stand by their decision. According to “The Press Democrat,” officials stated that the only choice they had was to put the animal down. The zoo’s director, Thane Maynard, said that the gorilla did not appear to be attacking the child but because of his strength the boy was in extreme danger. Tranquilizing the animal would not have taken immediate effect to save the child. The director further cited that a tranquilizer shot could have further agitated the animal causing the situation to potentially escalate and further endanger the child’s life.
According to Chicago Tribune, the zookeeper who cared for the gorilla from the time the animal was born until its transfer to Cincinnati Zoo last year made a strong point. Jerry Stones told reporters that the arguments, for and against, are not warranted. Most people were not there and truly do not know what they are talking about. When asked for his comment, he responded, “I’m not going to comment on it. I wasn’t there and they weren’t either.”
The name of the boy nor his family has not been released. The child was released from Cincinnati Children’s hospital later the same day of the incident uninjured. The family issued a statement thanking Cincinnati Zoo for saving the life of their child and that he was home doing well.
By Gichele Cocrelle
Edited by Cathy Milne
CNN:Critics Blame parents, Cincinnati Zoo for Gorilla’s Death
The Press Democrat: Cincinnati Zoo Gorilla Shot After boy, 4, Falls in Enclosure
WLWT.com: Gorilla Shot Dead After 4-year old boy Gets into Enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo
Chicago Tribune: What’s clear in Cincinnati Zoo case: Harambe had to die
Photo by Jakhynes Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License