Killing of rare gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo sparks criticism

The western lowland gorilla was shot dead after a boy fell in his enclosure and was dragged around by the primate

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo, is pictured in this undated handout photograph provided by Cincinnati Zoo.

A gorilla was shot dead at the Cincinnati Zoo in the US after he dragged a four-year-old boy, who had fallen in, across the enclosure. The incident sparked an outcry on social media where many criticised the child's mother for not being vigilant.

Harambe, the 17-year-old western lowland gorilla who weighed over 400 pounds, was killed by zookeepers on Saturday after the boy slipped into the animal’s enclosure.

Amateur video footage captured by a visitor on her mobile phone showed Harambe drag the boy around his habitat for about ten minutes.


The gorilla was killed using lethal force after the zoo's dangerous animal response team deemed the situation life-threatening. The boy who fell into the enclosure’s moat, was hospitalised without major injuries and released the same day. The toddler’s family said, "he is home and doing just fine."

Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard defended the zoo’s response to the incident saying the dangerous animal response team did not use tranquillizers, which take a few minutes to kick in, to subdue the animal due to the severity of the situation.

"The child was not under attack, but all sorts of things could happen," Maynard told CNN, adding "he [the toddler] certainly was at risk.”

However, the killing of the endangered gorilla to save the toddler has sparked a social media outcry.

Social media users are calling on the authorities to charge the parents with child neglect. According to the Independent, police in Ohio state, where Cincinnati is located, said the parents could face criminal charges.


Others retorted the gorilla would make a better parent.

The incident has resulted in more than 80,000 people having signed a petition on Facebook page 'Justice for Harembe'  has more than 32,000 signatures. The gorilla turned 17 on Friday.

Last week, two lions were killed after a young man jumped into their enclosure at the Metropolitan Zoo in Santiago de Chile.


TRTWorld and agencies