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CINCINNATI (CBSMiami/AP) — Animal rights activists held a vigil for a gorilla killed after a 4-year old boy slipped into the exhibit.
Anthony Seta calls the 17-year-old endangered lowland gorilla’s death “a senseless tragedy” and said the Monday afternoon gathering was meant as a memorial to Harambe.
“It is a big loss to the Cincinnati Zoo. Harambe was one of the most magnificent animals. He’s a critically endangered species and one of the key players in gorilla captive breeding and conservation,” said Cincinnati Zoo President Thane Maynard.
It turns out the gorilla spent time in South Florida and belongs to Zoo Miami.
“That gorilla did not want to hurt that child but because he was so agitated, he didn’t realize his own strength,” said Wildlife Expert and Zoo Miami’s Communications Director Ron Magill.
There has been a strong outpouring on social media of people upset the gorilla was killed Saturday at the Cincinnati Zoo after a special zoo response team concluded his life was in danger.
“You have to understand. This is a 400 pound animal with massive power. It was frightened. It was agitated. It was confused. You can see by its reaction, the way it dragged that child quickly, that child all he had to do was hit his head on the side of the concrete, hit his head on a rock, seconds could have been a life and death decision,” said Magill.
He also said tranquilizing the gorilla was not an option.
“When we’ve tranquilized a gorilla. When we dart a gorilla, the first thing he does is get very angry….and with that child next to him, they have what’s called displaced aggression. He’s going to think that that child is the reason, he might just hit that child. He might just do something that nobody can predict. We cannot take that chance,” said Magill.
People For PETA released a statement saying the gorilla enclosure should have been surrounded by a secondary barrier. The zoo says it is reviewing its security around the enclosure.
Seta says Monday’s memorial was meant as a tribute, not to point fingers at the zoo or the boy’s parents. The boy hasn’t been identified and his family says he is doing fine at home.
A Facebook page called “Justice for Harambe” created Saturday night has drawn wide attention. More than 200,000 people have signed online petitions on Change.org protesting the shooting of the gorilla, whose species is listed as endangered. Some petitions urged police to hold the child’s parents accountable.
Cincinnati Police say they do not plan to charge the mother.
This incident was the first time in the history of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s gorilla exhibit that an unauthorized person entered the enclosure.
“It’s unprecedented. We have never had to kill a dangerous animal in the middle of an emergency situation. This zoo has been here 143 years so that’s saying a lot,” said Maynard.
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