Was Killing a Rare Gorilla the Only Option for Cincinnati Zoo to Save 4-Year-Old Boy?

The Cincinnati Zoo shot and killed a gorilla on Saturday after a 4-year-old boy slipped into the animal’s enclosure.

A small boy crawled into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, which prompted zoo officials to take down the animal. Footage provided by Amber Soler shows Harambe, the 17-year-old male gorilla, standing near the boy, who accidentally got into the enclosure.

The footage later shows the gorilla dragging the child through the water as the clamor of the crowd grows louder and increasingly panicked.

Zookeepers then decided to shot the 450-pound western lowland animal with a rifle instead of using tranquilizers.”Tranquilizers 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, explained.

“We are heartbroken about losing Harambe, but a child’s life was in danger and a quick decision had to be made,” he added.

The boy was immediately delivered to Children’s Hospital and released later Saturday evening. The family of the 4-year-old said later:”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.”

Animal behaviorist Dave Salmoni told “Good Morning America” on Sunday that he wouldn’t second-guess the zoo’s decision to kill the gorilla.“I would say it’s easy to suggest this is life-threatening danger,” Salmoni said.

“In a captive environment, you never know how an animal’s going to react to something like this. And typically a silverback gorilla can either be nervous of something like this, something new, like a child entering the enclosure, or react aggressively, and it’s the aggressive reaction you really have to worry about.”

The specialist added that zookeepers typically care deeply for their animals, and that people should provide the best possible care for the many animals in captivity. But, he concluded, “In a perfect world, there would be no animals in zoos.”Ian Redmond, chairman of The Gorilla Organization, said zookeepers had other options besides a fatal shot.

“When gorilla or other apes have things they shouldn’t have, keepers will negotiate with them, bring food, their favorite treats, pineapple or some kind of fruit that they don’t know and negotiate with them,” he explained.

“I don’t know if that was tried or people thought there was too much danger but it does seem very unfortunate that a lethal shot was required,” he said.

Animal expert Jeff Corwin told reporters that tranquilizers may have taken too long.

“It can take, in some situations, depending on what the medication is, it can take upward to 10 to 15 minutes. It may take multiple shots.”

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