Gorilla shot, killed after 4-year-old boy falls into zoo enclosure

A 400-pound gorilla was shot and killed Saturday after it was deemed a threat to a 4-year-old boy who fell into a zoo enclosure in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The boy was hospitalized and released later in the day. He had somehow gotten past a barrier and fallen 10 to 12 feet into a moat at the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. The gorilla, a 17-year-old male named Harambe, picked up the boy and dragged him around the enclosure for around 10 minutes.

While some bystanders said the gorilla was not hurting the boy — “He almost was guarding the boy, was protecting him,” one eyewitness told ABC News — firefighters described the boy being “dragged around and banged around pretty violently.” Zoo Director Thane Maynard told Cincinnati’s WCPO-TV that it was a “life-threatening situation” for the boy.

The zoo’s dangerous animal response team decided to kill the gorilla instead of tranquilize it because it was agitated and could have acted unpredictably while the tranquilizer took effect, the zoo said.

“It’s a sad day all around,” Maynard said. “They made a tough choice and they made the right choice, because they saved that little boy’s life. It could have been very bad. . . . The decision was not made lightly; lowland gorillas are endangered animals.”

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The boy was immediately rescued after the gorilla was shot. The family, who were not identified, thanked the zoo for their response. “We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff,” they wrote. “We know that this was a very difficult decision for them, and that they are grieving the loss of their gorilla.”

Some online were quick to blame the parents. “In mourning? You all killed him for protecting a child [whose] parents couldn’t contain their own children!!” one commenter wrote on the zoo’s Facebook page.

At Change.org, an online petition seeking “Justice for Harambe” had more than 86,000 signatures as of Monday morning, Eastern Time.

“This beautiful gorilla lost his life because the boy’s parents did not keep a closer watch on the child,” read the petition, which asked authorities to investigate ”the child’s home environment in the interests of protecting the child and his siblings from further incidence of parental negligence that may result in serious bodily harm or even death.”

View more information: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/gorilla-shot-killed-after-4-year-old-boy-falls-into-zoo-enclosure-2016-05-29

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