Cincinnati Zoo: Mother of boy who fell into gorilla enclosure says 'accidents happen'

The shooting of the 17-year-old gorilla has created a storm of controvery

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Monday 30 May 2016 14:59
A four-year-old boy and Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla, in the primate's enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo
A four-year-old boy and Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla, in the primate's enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo

Accidents happen.

That was the response of Michelle Gregg, the mother whose child fell into a gorilla enclosure and led staff to shoot and kill the 400-lb animal before it might harm her son.

As a storm of controversy continues to rage, with many blaming Ms Gregg for failing to control her child and police warning that she could face charges, she apparently posted a message on Facebook, thanking those people who had offered messages of support and defending herself against her critics.

The mother of the boy said that people were being quick to blame

“For those of you that have seen the news or been on social media, that was my soon that fell into the gorilla exhibit at the zoo. God protected my child until the authorities were able to get to him.”

Officials at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanial Gardens said they had no option but to shoot and kill the 17-year-old western lowland gorilla, named Harambe, after it seized the boy on Saturday. They said that using a tranquiliser would not have knocked the animal out immediately and it could have still hurt the youngster.

Cincinnati zoo gorilla shot dead as boy falls into enclosure

The zoo’s director, Thane Maynard, said: “They made a tough choice and they made the right choice because they saved that little boy’s life.”

Yet while some have supported the zoo, Ms Gregg has found herself at the mounting anger, with many saying she should have done more to ensure that her boy did not fall into the enclosure. Police have suggested she could face criminal charges.

Her son was taken to a local hospital on Saturday evening but was not held overnight. “My son is safe and was able to walk away with a concussion and a few scrapes…no broken bones or internal injuries,” she added.

While she has not yet spoken in public, in her posting on Facebook, Ms Gregg sought to defend herself against her critics.

A four-year-old boy and Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla, in the primate's enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo

“As a society we are quick to judge how a parent could take their eyes off of their child and if anyone knows me I keep a tight watch on my kids,” she added.

“Accidents happen but I am thankful that the right people were in the right place today.”

More than 70,000 petitioners have signed a campaign on calling for the parents to be investigated after the child fell into the enclosure.

The petition read: “This beautiful gorilla lost his life because the boy’s parents did not keep a closer watch on the child. We the undersigned believe that the child would not have been able to enter the enclosure under proper parental supervision.”

Mr Maynard said although the gorilla did not attack the boy, the strength and speed of the animal was a threat.

“In an agitated situation, it may take quite a while for the tranquiliser to take effect,” he said. “At the instant he would be hit, he would have a dramatic response.”

The fire department said the boy was in between the gorilla’s legs at the time of the shot. Meanwhile, plans have been announced for a vigil for the gorilla at 2pm on Monday.

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