Jack Hanna Defends Cincinnati Zoo, Says Killing Harambe Was The Right Thing To Do

Tara Dodrill - Author
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Dec. 21 2017, Updated 5:12 a.m. ET

Jack Hanna agrees with the decision of Cincinnati Zoo officials to kill the 17-year-old critically endangered lowland gorilla named Harambe. Both the actions of the second oldest zoo in the country and the parents of the boy who climbed into the gorilla enclosure have sparked an intense backlash and protests around the country.

Although celebrity zookeeper “Jungle Jack” Hanna agrees the difficult decision to shoot and kill Harambe was the only choice when the life of a child was involved, he is not prepared to defend the mother who allowed the boy to climb around the gorilla enclosure unsupervised, USA Today reports.

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“I agree 1,000 percent” with the decision not to use tranquilizers and to shoot to kill during the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens incident, Jack Hanna said during an interview with CBS News.

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The name of the 4-year-old boy who escaped with only minor injuries has not been released to the public. The parents of the child have been identified as Michelle Gregg, 32, and Deonne Dickerson, 36. The couple has four children together, and Dickerson has an extensive criminal history, according to a Daily Mail report.

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The boy allegedly told his mother he was going to climb into the gorilla enclosure multiple times, according to comments by at least one witness. The child was reportedly unsupervised long enough to climb over fence rails, an extensive wire barrier, through intricate landscaping, and over a wall before falling about 15 feet into the moat that borders the gorilla habitat. The gorilla habitat has been in place for decades with no known prior incidents of contact between the animals and humans.

“They made the correct decision. A human being is alive today because of the decision the Cincinnati Zoo made. We’d be at the very top of safety [compared to other types of attractions], however, We can only do so much (to assure safety)… What do we do?… We can’t protect everything all the time. You always have to watch your children,” Hanna warned parents.

When asked about the mother of the boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure, where many feel Harambe was attempting to safeguard him amid the screams of a vast crowd of spectators, Hanna said he “guessed” she might have been doing something else instead of keeping a keen eye on that particular child.

“I don’t know. I wasn’t there,” Jungle Jack added.

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Hanna is no stranger to the how quickly a child can be devastatingly harmed by a wild animal. In the early 1970s, he was co-owner of the Pet Kingdom on Kingston Pike in Tennessee. He kept a vast array of exotic animals at his home, “Hanna’s Ark,” on Cedar Bluff Road.

On a tragic day in July in 1972, a 3-year-old boy managed to wiggle his hand through the wire fence enclosure. Daisy, a lioness inside the enclosure, took the boy’s arm off to just above his elbow.

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Several years ago, Jack Hanna was involved with an exotic animal escape in the Zanesville, Ohio, area where multiple dangerous animals were killed. As ABC News notes, Hanna was the subject of intense backlash and even death threats when he then too agreed that using tranquilizer guns on the animals was not a viable option. Hanna cited the time it takes for the tranquilizers to subdue large creatures, and because a human life was a stake, the decision was made to shoot to kill the escaping exotic pets.

Jack Hanna, 69, is perhaps the best-known zookeeper on the planet. He became the face of the Columbus, Ohio, zoo in the late 1970s and garnered worldwide fame after appearing on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and The Late Show with David Letterman.

The Justice for Harambe petition circulating online has logged more than 210,000 signatures. Some folks are calling for criminal charges to be filed against Michelle Gregg and Deonne Dickerson for failing to supervise their child and the resulting death of the endangered lowland gorilla.

What do you think about the Harambe incident at the Cincinnati Zoo?

[Image via Helga Esteb/Shutterstock.com]

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