Thousands have taken to social media to give vent to anger against the parents of the 4-year-old boy who entered into Harambe the gorilla’s enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo on Saturday, forcing officials at the zoo to shoot and kill the 17-year-old Western lowland gorilla, a species of gorilla considered critically endangered.
Sorrow expressed by animal lovers over the 400-lb gorilla’s death was heightened by news that the zoo had just celebrated the gorilla’s 17th birthday the day before.
Harambe’s death has sparked outrage, with hundreds of animal lovers placing the blame for the tragic incident on the boy’s parents, whom they accused of not taking care of their child.
Many also berated the zoo officials, saying that shooting and killing the gorilla was “senseless” and an act of “murder.”
A Facebook group, “Justice for Harambe,” formed soon after the incident has attracted hundreds of followers.
Some visitors at the zoo, who witnessed the incident, said they heard the 4-year-old boy saying to his mother that he wanted to enter the moat in the gorilla’s enclosure. Moments later, he crawled through the railing and fell about 10 feet into the moat.
According to a witness, identified as Kim O’Connor, when the boy said he wanted to enter the enclosure, his mother, who was in charge of several other children, said, “No, you’re not, no, you’re not.”
But the child crawled through a gap in the railing and fell into the moat.
WLWT reports O’Connor said she heard a splash as the boy fell into the water moments after saying he wanted to get into the moat.
Harambe the gorilla approached the boy in the moat, grabbed him and dragged him in the water while horrified visitors watched helplessly yelling for help.
Meanwhile, footage has emerged showing the terrifying moments that the massive gorilla dragged the tiny boy in the water. The footage was reportedly edited to remove the more graphic moments of the little boy’s ordeal.
— HuffPost UK (@HuffPostUK) May 29, 2016
— WLWT.com (@WLWT) May 29, 2016
The panicked yelling of visitors at the zoo is audible in the footage. A witness speculated that the uproar from the crowd may have agitated the gorilla, causing him to pull the boy further away from the howling crowd.
“I don’t know if the screaming did it or too many people hanging on the edge, if he thought we were coming in, but then he pulled the boy down away further from the big group,” the Daily Mail reports O’Connor said.
An animal response team soon arrived at the scene, and judging that the boy’s life was in danger, they took the decision to shoot and kill the gorilla.
The 17-year-old gorilla was shot and killed after handling the child in the enclosure for more than 10 minutes.
The boy, whose identify is being withheld, was rescued from the enclosure and taken to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Authorities said he suffered “serious injuries,” but they were not life-threatening.
The zoo authorities have since justified their action, saying that the decision to shoot Harambe, rather than tranquilize him, was necessitated by the fact that the response team assessed the situation as an urgent “life-threatening situation.”
— David Vance (@DVATW) May 29, 2016
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) May 29, 2016
Zoo director Thane Maynard, told reporters that the team took the best decision.
“They made a tough choice and they made the right choice because they saved that little boy’s life,” he said.
Maynard said it was the first time that the response team at the zoo has had to kill an animal due to an emergency.
“The zoo security team’s quick response saved the child’s life,” he said. “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.”
'RIP Harambe': Fury at parents of four-year-old boy who was heard ASKING to play in endangered gorilla's enclosure… https://t.co/jwedvrPAvM
— Certified (@ayo_RAF) May 29, 2016
But the zoo’s statement has not stopped thousands from expressing outrage on social media, with many saying that the gorilla’s death was avoidable. Most blamed the boy’s parents for incident. Others blamed the zoo authorities for failing to ensure that the enclosure barrier was child proof.
— John (@flashzonephoto) May 29, 2016
Rest in Peace #Harambe This beautiful majestic animal did not deserve to die like this.
— Philip Morris (@phil500) May 29, 2016
— Jenks (@jenks1468) May 29, 2016
How do you not pay attention to your kid long enough for him to climb through barricades & fall into a gorilla exhibit… #Harambe
— beth grabDAMN (@elizabug789) May 29, 2016
Yet others placed the blame on the response team, asking why they chose to use live rounds instead of a tranquilizer.
But Maynard explained that tranquilizing the gorilla would have exposed the boy to great danger in the time interval during which the tranquilizer acts to knock out the gorilla.
While most social media users passed harsh judgment on the child’s mother, a few argued that the mother committed a human error.
the headline should read "Stupid humans enslave 400lb gorilla for their amusement and then get sad when it tries to kill them" #Harambe
— Manny404 (@mannynotfound) May 29, 2016
— Daisy Robertson (@_DaisyRobertson) May 29, 2016
— brittany (@brittrosenthal) May 29, 2016
— brittany (@brittrosenthal) May 29, 2016
Following close scrutiny of the footage, many claimed that the gorilla was not attacking the child, but being very strong and big in comparison to the fragile child, and apparently agitated by noise from the crowd, he handled the child in a manner that placed him at great risk.
He handled the boy roughly, “violently dragging and throwing” him in the water.
“You’re talking about an animal that’s over 400 pounds and extremely strong,” Maynard said. “So no, the child wasn’t under attack but all sorts of things could happen in a situation like that. He certainly was at risk.”
Harambe was holding the boy between his legs when he was shot, WLWT reports fire department officials said.
Harambe the gorilla arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2015 from the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas.
[Image via Shutterstock]