And now the candles have come out.
Two days after officials at a zoo in Cincinnati shot and killed an adult gorilla they feared might hurt a little boy, animal rights activists have held a vigil for the animal.
Officials at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanial Gardens have defended the decision to shoot dead the 17-year-old gorilla, named Harambe, after a four-year-old boy fell into the enclosure on Saturday. They said that using a tranquiliser may not have worked quickly enough, and may have antagonised the animal.
But the incident has sparked a wave of anger, some of it directed at the zoo officials and others at the mother of the young boy. They have said she should have done more to control her child and police have said she could face criminal charges.
Meanwhile, on Monday, campaigners gathered outside the zoo, holding signs and placards. Among those protest was activist Anthony Seta, who called the called the western lowland gorilla’s death “a senseless tragedy”.
“People can shout at the parents and people can shout at the zoo,” he told the Associated Press. “The fact is that a gorilla that just celebrated his birthday has been killed.”
A Facebook page called “Justice for Harambe” which was created on Saturday night had drawn wide attention, along with online petitions and another page calling for a June 5 protest at the zoo.
“I was just trying to make a tribute and it’s really taken off from there,” said the page’s creator, Kate Villanueva of Erlanger, Kentucky.
Videos 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 zoo’s director, Thane Maynard, said its dangerous animal response team that included full-time animal keepers, veterinarians, and security staff made the right decision to kill the gorilla. He said the 400-lb animal did not appear to be attacking the child, but was in an “agitated situation”.
“We are heartbroken about losing Harambe, but a child’s life was in danger and a quick decision had to be made,” he said.
The boy was taken to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre for treatment and was released Saturday night. His parents said in a statement Sunday that he was “doing just fine”.
Meanwhile, in a post on Facebook, the boy’s mother has defended herself against criticism.
“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.”
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