Cincinnati zookeepers shot and killed a rare 450-pound gorilla over the weekend after a 3-year-old boy slipped into the enclosure.
And if that scenario were to arise again, the Cincinnati Zoo Director said they would respond the same way. Thane Maynard said that people who question the decision don't understand the aggressive nature of silverback gorillas.
Maynard said the decision to kill the gorilla was the right one. He said the gorilla was agitated and disoriented by the commotion during the 10 minutes after the boy fell. He said the gorilla could crush a coconut in one hand and there was no doubt that the boy's life was in danger.
The male western lowland gorilla named Harambe was killed Saturday by a special zoo response team that feared for the boy's safety. Video taken by zoo visitors showed the gorilla at times appeared to be protective of the boy but also dragged him through the shallow moat.
The boy was taken to a local hospital. He was released from the hospital on Saturday. Many people are outraged and are suggesting that the parents should be held responsible for his actions.
The Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, where Harambe spent most of his life, said its staff is deeply saddened by the gorilla's death. Harambe was sent to Cincinnati less than two years ago in hopes he would eventually breed with gorillas there.
Jerry Stones, facilities director at Gladys Porter Zoo raised Harambe since birth and has worked with the gorilla's family since they first entered the U.S., the Brownsville Herald reported. He spoke Monday about his relationship with Harambe.
"He was a character. He grew up to be a beautiful, beautiful animal, never aggressive and never mean," Stones said, according to the newspaper. "He would tease the heck out of people and would do things to irritate you just like some kids."
Similar incidents have occurred at the Buffalo Zoo. A 20-year-old man jumped a fence that led into a polar bear pit back in 1979.
Recently, in 2012, a 400-pound silverback gorilla got loose from his cage and moved towards the space behind the cage. SWAT teams were called in to neutralize the situation. The gorilla was sedated and successfully taken back to his own habitat.