Cincinnati zoo shoots gorilla dead after child falls into enclosure

The boy climbed though a barrier and fell into a moat

Matt Payton
Sunday 29 May 2016 07:29
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Cincinnati zoo gorilla shot dead as boy falls into enclosure

An American zoo has temporarily closed its gorilla exhibit after staff shot and killed a gorilla that grabbed and dragged a 4-year-old boy who fell into a moat.

Cincinnati Zoo's special response team shot Harambe, the 17-year-old African western lowland gorilla that picked the boy out of the moat and dragged him for about 10 minutes.

Zoo officials said the boy fell after he climbed through a public barrier at the Gorilla World exhibit Saturday afternoon.

Authorities said the child, who has not been identified, fell 10 to 12 feet.

He was taken to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, where he is expected to recover. Hospital officials said they couldn't release any information on him.

Zoo Director Thane Maynard said the response team decided the boy was in “a life-threatening situation” and that they needed to put down the 400-pound-plus male gorilla.

He said: “They made a tough choice and they made the right choice because they saved that little boy's life, it could have been very bad.”

Harambe was 17-year-old silverback western lowland gorilla

Mr Maynard, however, mourned the loss of the gorilla, which came to Cincinnati in 2015 from the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas.

He said in a news release: “We are all devastated that this tragic accident resulted in the death of a critically-endangered gorilla.

“This is a huge loss for the zoo family and the gorilla population worldwide.”

Two female gorillas were also in the enclosure when the boy fell in but zoo officials said only the male remained with the child.

Mr Maynard said the gorilla didn't seem to be attacking the child, but he said it was “an extremely strong” animal in an agitated situation. He said tranquilizing the gorilla wouldn't have knocked it out immediately, leaving the boy in danger.

It was the first time that the team had killed a zoo animal in such an emergency situation, Maynard said. He called it “a very sad day” at the zoo.

The area around the gorilla exhibit was closed off Saturday afternoon as visitors reported hearing screaming.

Mr Maynard has stressed the zoo believes the exhibit remains safe.

The zoo will be open on Sunday but officials said the gorilla exhibit has been closed until further notice.

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