The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is being slammed by animal rights advocates for killing a critically endangered gorilla after a 4-year-old boy made it past a barrier and into the gorilla’s enclosure.
Video captured onlookers screaming as the 17-year-old male silverback gorilla, named Harambe, scooped up the boy and dragged him throughout the enclosure’s moat. The zoo’s dangerous animal response team ultimately shot and killed the animal.
“They made a tough choice and they made the right choice,” said the zoo’s director, Thane Maynard. “They saved that little boy’s life. It could’ve been very bad.”
But on Facebook, the page “Justice for Harambe” has received thousands of likes. PETA also condemned the killing, urging families to “stay away from any facility that displays animals as sideshows for humans to gawk at.”
Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, agrees “1,000 percent” with the zoo’s decision to put down the gorilla.
“They made the correct decision. Matter of fact, it’s a millisecond decision,” Hanna told “CBS This Morning” Monday. “All of us are sorry. We’re all, in the zoo world, heartfelt for this whole thing but thank goodness a human being is alive today because of the decision that the zoo made.”
Hanna also rejected claims that the zoo officials should have used a tranquilizer instead to subdue the gorilla, saying it was too dangerous to wait the “five to 10 minutes” it would have taken for the effect to kick in.
“You hear the screaming going on. Watch that gorilla’s response … he hears the response, you can see from the face now he’s alarmed…” Hanna said, analyzing the video. “I know that dart hits the animal… it’s like a shot but he jumps like this. What would happen if he had a hold of that little boy?”
Zoo officials say the child somehow climbed underneath the zoo’s railing, through wires, then over a wall, falling 15 feet below into the gorilla exhibit’s moat, prompting questions about the zoo’s safety measures.
But Hanna insisted that zoological parks are “at the top very top” when it comes to safety.
Others have also turned the blame on the child’s parents. An online petition accused them of negligence for not keeping “a closer watch on the child.”
Hanna said the incident was a lesson to be learned for parents.
“Just watch your kids. … I’m sure that the mother here did the best she could. I guess maybe she was doing something else, I don’t know, I wasn’t there.”
The boy was treated at a hospital. His family said he is “home and doing just fine.”