Despite the western lowland gorilla being considered a critically endangered species, the dangerous animal response team of Cincinnati Zoo shot and killed one with a rifle after a boy fell into its enclosure.
The unnamed 4-year-old child’s parents did not notice him crawl under the railing, through the wires, and up the moat wall. Although his fall was broken by the water in the moat, his life was still deemed in danger when the 400-pound male gorilla fished him out of the water and began dragging him around the enclosure.
When the boy fell down the moat, zoo staff scrambled to lure the gorillas away from him and out of the habitat but while the females complied, the male ignored the staff.
Harambe, a 17-year-old male gorilla, hails from Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas where he was born but was transferred to Cincinnati Zoo because officials hoped he would father more gorillas in the zoo.
When the incident happened with the 4-year-old boy, however, the zoo’s dangerous animal response team believed it was best to kill him because even if he was not attacking the child, he was still considered a huge threat to the boy’s life.
Tranquilizing the huge gorilla would not work as quickly as the team would have wanted; thus, despite his endangered status, Harambe had to be killed.
The incident deeply saddened the zoo staff but the quick response team acted on their belief that they young boy’s life was clearly in danger.