Harambe, a 17-year-old male gorilla, was shot dead Saturday at the Cincinnati Zoo after a 4-year-old boy slipped into his enclosure. Harambe was a Western lowland silverback gorilla, a critically endangered species.
The death of Harambe has caused outrage among animal-rights activists. Many have questioned whether the zoo make the right decision in killing the animal, who was seen on video dragging the boy through his enclosure.
One alternative to killing Harambe would have been to shoot him with a sedative. But zoo officials say that would only have made the situation worse. The tranquilizer could have taken up to 10 minutes to work, they said. During that time, the boy would be put in even more danger.
Harambe was “clearly disoriented” and “acting erratically,” Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard said Monday at a news conference. While the rest of the gorillas in the enclosure cleared the area after the 4-year-old’s fall thanks to special calls made by zookeepers, Harambe did not respond.
A tranquilizer, Maynard said, could have taken up to 10 minutes to take effect, and the pain from the dart would have caused more panic in the animal.
“You can’t take a risk with a silverback gorilla,” Maynard said. “We’re talking about animal that with one hand can take a coconut and crush it.”
Though tranquilizing Harambe was not an option, critics still say the zoo could have done more to draw the gorilla away from the boy.
“When gorilla or other apes have things they shouldn’t have, keepers will negotiate with them, bring food, their favourite treats, pineapple or some kind of fruit that they don’t know and negotiate with them,” Ian Redmond, chairman of The Gorilla Organisation told CNN.
Some witnesses even speculated that at first Harambe appeared to be protecting the boy, only growing agitated as people started screaming.
But many animal behaviorists have also stood behind the zoo’s decision. Wildlife expert Jack Hanna told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that there was “no doubt” in his mind that “that child would not be here today if they hadn’t made that decision.”
“We stand by our decision,” Maynard said. “We’d make the same decision today.”
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