CINCINNATI – A 17-year-old endangered gorilla was shot to death by zookeepers after a 4-year-old child fell into it enclosure Saturday at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
The child crawled through a barrier and fell into a moat at the zoo. The boy was walking and splashing around in the moat before a western lowland gorilla named Harambe him up and dragged him around the enclosure for 10 minutes, zoo Director Thayne Maynard said, according to WCPO.
According to police reports, Harambe was “slamming the child into the wall.”
Zookeepers decided to shoot the 400-pound gorilla, because tranquilizers would have had a delayed effect.
Maynard said the situation appeared to be life-threatening.
“They made the right choice. It would have been very bad,” said Maynard.
The boy was sitting between Harambe’s legs when the animal was shot. He was immediately transported to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Maynard expressed regret over the loss.
“Harambe was a good guy,” Maynard said. “He was a youngster; the hope was to breed him.”
WFXT spoke with animal expert Jeff Corwin about the tragedy. He said that this is a powerful lesson everyone should learn from.
“Zoos aren’t your babysitter,” he said. “Take a break from the cellphone, the selfie stick and the texting. Connect with your children. Be responsible for your children. I don’t think this happened in seconds or minutes. I think this took time for this kid, this little boy to find himself in that situation. Ultimately it’s the gorilla that’s paid this price.”