Gorilla Experts Weigh In: Did Harambe Have To Die?

Harambe the gorilla has been the subject of swirling public outrage after he was shot to death Saturday at the Cincinnati Zoo, following an incident where a 3-year-old boy fell into his enclosure.

Harambe spent ten minutes standing over the screaming boy, and yanking him through the water of the moat surrounding his pen, before he was gunned down by orders of zoo administration.

While some animal experts support the decision to kill the gorilla, others are questioning the action, which has sparked public outrage by those who claim the beast was simply trying to protect the child.

University of New England animal behaviour expert Gisela Kaplan, agrees with this, to a point. The Daily Telegraph reports that Kaplan, who is author of Orangutans in Borneo, said she does not believe the child was in any real danger.

"The silverback would've understood that it was a defenseless small child. They would not normally attack, they are not an aggressive species (and) in the wild I'm certain the boy wouldn't have been killed."
But this is not the wild, zoo experts say. Animals in captivity have a constant level of stress from which they cannot escape.

Internationally famous primatologist Jane Goodall reached out to Cincinnati Zoo on Monday, to let them know she supported the decision to end the animal's life.

Celebrity animal expert Jack Hanna also agreed with the zoo's decision.

Dr. Sharon Redrobe, chief executive of Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire, England, said in a statement published by the Mirror that zoo officials in Cincinnati did the right thing.
"The zoo keepers had a life and death situation on their hands and they would have known the behavior of that animal better than anyone.

"The fact they left the situation for 10 minutes before firing the final shot shows they would have tried everything they could to get the male gorilla to enter the inside enclosure away from the boy."

Professor Kaplan said, as leader of his troop, 17-year-old Harambe was doing what he was supposed to do. He was "investigating," she said, not attacking.
"I can tell you silverbacks are protectors of their group.

"If there's an unusual thing happening, (Harambe) needs to investigate. The fact that he went over to the child is absolutely natural behaviour but it doesn't mean he was aggressive.

"If he was going to attack he would've warned him first. The first thing they do is charge and beat their chests and as far as I know that didn't happen."

Ian Redmond, chairman of The Gorilla Organization, told CNN that keepers had other options besides a fatal shot.
"When gorilla or other apes have things they shouldn't have, keepers will negotiate with them, bring food, their favorite treats, pineapple or some kind of fruit that they don't know and negotiate with them.

"I don't know if that was tried or people thought there was too much danger but it does seem very unfortunate that a lethal shot was required."

Cincinnati zoo director Thayne Maynard admitted that Harambe did not appear to be attacking the child, but according to the Daily Mail, said the fatal shot probably did save the child's life.
"You're talking about an animal that's over 400 pounds and extremely strong. 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."
Jerry Stones, who raised Harambe from a baby, said he was in tears when he learned of the gorilla's death. Stones, the director of Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, was Harambe's caretaker from his birth until he was transferred to Cincinnati last year.
"The child was in danger. It's a tragic set of circumstances that left a beautiful young gorilla in a situation that was foreign and ultimately ended up being dangerous for him.
"Can you imagine what was going through those parents' minds?'

"No matter what Harambe was doing, in their minds, they had to be petrified."

Gorilla Experts Weigh In Did Harambe Have To Die
[Memorial at the zoo - Photo by John Minchillo/AP]

The boy's mother, Michelle Gregg, responded to critics accusing her of negligence for allowing her child to fall into the gorilla's enclosure, according to the Mirror.

"My son is safe and was able to walk away with a concussion and a few scrapes... no broken bones or internal injuries.

"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. Accidents happen but I am thankful that the right people were in the right place today."
[Image via Andreas R/Shutterstock]