The director of the Cincinnati Zoo on Monday stood by the decision to shoot dead a gorilla as he dragged a 4-year-old boy around by the ankle, saying the animal was not simply endangering the child who fell into his enclosure but actually hurting him.
“Looking back, we would make the same decision” to shoot the gorilla, Thayne Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, told a news conference.
“The gorilla was clearly agitated. The gorilla was clearly disoriented,” Maynard said, while lamenting the loss of Harambe, a 17-year-old Western lowland gorilla, whose species is listed as endangered.
The boy’s head was banging on the concrete as he was being dragged through the enclosure, which was one factor in the decision to shoot Harambe on Saturday.
Shooting the ape with a tranquilizer dart would have further agitated him and further endangered the child, so zookeepers made the decision to shoot Harambe. The zoo’s dangerous animal response team shot Harambe dead about 10 minutes after he encountered the child.
Animal lovers mobilized Monday as outrage mounted over the killing.
More than 200,000 people had signed online petitions on Change.org to protest the shooting. Some petitions urged police to hold the child’s parents accountable.
However, Maynard said the zoo had also received thousands of messages of sympathy and support, including from other zoos.
Maynard maintained that the exhibit was safe and the zoo was not negligent. The boy apparently climbed over a 3-foot barrier, he said.
“People can climb over barriers. That’s what happened,” he said.
“The barrier’s adequate,” Maynard said.
The zoo would review the barrier to see if it could be improved, he said.
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