Zookeepers shot and killed a rare gorilla after a four-year-old boy slipped into its enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, triggering an outcry over how the situation was handled.
Footage shot by a witness shows Harambe, the 17-year-old male gorilla, standing near the boy, who went under a rail, through wires and over a moat wall to get into the enclosure, according to the zoo.
The footage later shows Harambe dragging the child through the water as the clamor of the crowd grows louder and increasingly panicked.
Zookeepers then shot the 450-pound western lowland gorilla with a rifle, rather than tranquilizing him.
“Tranquillizers do not take effect for several minutes, and the child was in imminent danger. On top of that, the impact from the dart could agitate the animal and cause the situation to get much worse,”
Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, said in a statement released Sunday.
“We are heartbroken about losing Harambe, but a child’s life was in danger and a quick decision had to be made.”
A vigil for Harambe was planned for Monday.
The boy, who has not been identified, was taken to Children’s Hospital and released later Saturday evening.
The family is not granting interviews at this time, but released the following statement through a public relations firm:
“We are so thankful to the Lord that our child is safe. He is home and doing just fine. We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff. We know that this was a very difficult decision for them, and that they are grieving the loss of their gorilla. We hope that you will respect our privacy at this time.”
However, the boy’s brief encounter with the gorilla set off an uproar on the Internet. The zookeeper’s decision to shoot Harambe has been called into question over whether death was the only option.