News about Harambe the gorilla dragging a 4-year-old boy around the moat of his enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo on Saturday continues to be a subject of great debate. The 17-year-old gorilla was shot dead by the zoo out of fear he’d do harm to the child, but the act has unleashed a firestorm of criticism over the decision and fury toward the child’s parents.
People reports that eyewitness Kim O’Connor observed the boy’s mother at the zoo before anyone realized he was in Harambe’s enclosure. O’Connor is also the one who filmed the incident.
O’Connor said the little boy was badgering his mother about wanting to into Harambe’s enclosure and swim with him, but she told him, “No you’re not!”
Apparently, the child was determined because he did just that. Another witness — Deidre Lykins — said in a Facebook post that the little boy “literally flopped over the railing,” which was 15-feet up from where he landed.
O’Connor described how the boy must have gotten away from his mom, who was with a female companion and several other children.
“She was putting kids in the strollers – there were four or five kids total – and getting ready to leave the exhibit. She didn’t have him by the hand, and at one point, he must have been behind her, out of sight,” O’Connor said, adding, “I don’t think in her wildest imagination she thought he would actually go back and do that.”
The boy’s mother has been identified as Michelle Gregg, an administrator at Little Blossoms Academy Preschool. She has been the subject of scathing reports and outrage from the public.
O’Connor described Gregg’s reaction when she noticed that her son was in the moat with the gorilla. She said “everyone started screaming and then the mother looked around and ran to the wall and said, ‘Oh my God, that’s my son!’ ”
The witness adds that the huge gorilla that everyone kept referring to as “King Kong” slowly made his way out of his cave to see what the commotion was all about. She said “his manner was aggressive, he was huffing and looking rapidly at the crowd and making a snorting noise.” O’Connor said that’s when the gorilla pulled the boy to the end of the moat.
As the witness attests, the child’s mother was heard yelling to the child, “Calm down, Isaiah! Mommy loves you.”
O’Connor said she turned off the camera by the time Harambe had taken child to a cemented area of the exhibit. She said at that point the animal had a very firm grip on the child’s hand and that he was dragging him around like a “Raggedy Ann doll.”
“I was frozen in fear, it was too traumatic to be on camera,” O’Connor explains. “What you don’t see is the way he pulled the boy up the wall. He was treating the little boy like a Raggedy Ann doll in his grip.”
— People Magazine (@people) May 31, 2016
O’Connor went on to describe how Harambe the Gorilla moved the boy “around side to side, behind him” then “scooped him up to his belly sitting down.” She said that boy tried to “scoot away,” but Harambe “pulled him right back in.”
The witness said it was evident something “spooked” the large gorilla before dragging the boy “across the cement exhibit to another cover area where he couldn’t get away. He had the boy underneath him between his legs.”
O’Connor told Gregg that she needed to follow the zookeepers. The mother was “torn” between following a security guard or leaving her other children who were standing at the railing. The witness didn’t say what happened next other than she chose to leave the exhibit and on her way out, she heard a gunshot — the one that killed Harambe.
An online petition at Change.org has over 329,000 signatures of the 500,000 needed encouraging the Cincinnati Zoo, Child Protection Services, and Cincinnati Police Department to hold the parents accountable for Harambe’s death.
— Us Weekly (@usweekly) May 31, 2016
Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard stands by the facility’s decision to kill Harambe.
“That child’s life was in danger,” Maynard said in a news conference held on Monday, Us reports. “People who question that don’t understand you can’t take a risk with a silverback gorilla — this is a dangerous animal.”
It’s argued that the zoo didn’t tranquilize the gorilla because the drugs aren’t fast-acting and would have caused agitation in the animal — making the situation more dangerous for the child. While many believe Harambe was protecting the boy, there was a real concern that the gorilla didn’t know his own strength in the way he was handling him.
[Image via Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden/Facebook]