Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, was fatally shot after an encounter with a young boy who had crawled into the inclosure and fell into the moat.

The boy, 4, didn’t appear to be seriously injured in the fall, according to zoo director Thane Maynard, but the 400 pound Harambe went down to the boy, grabbing and dragging him around the inclosure.

Many claims are being made about the gorilla and that he was only trying to protect the boy, saying he should’ve been tranquilized. While it does look like Harambe was protective of the boy at times, there were others when he violently dragged the 4-year-old around the moat. When you have 400 pounds of gorilla surrounded by onlookers, his actions aren’t exactly predictable.

The decision to shoot Harambe was made by the dangerous-animal response team, because the boy was in danger and there was no way of predicting how the gorilla would have responded had he been tranquilized. Considering it would’ve taken a couple of minutes for him to go to sleep, he could have easily lashed out at the thing closest to him, the 4-year-old boy.

Image: Washington Post

Image: Washington Post

“It seemed very much by our professional team, our dangerous-animal response team, to be a life-threatening situation,” Maynard said. “And so the choice was made to put down, or shoot, Harambe. And so he’s gone.”

The boy was taken to a hospital and was released unhurt on Saturday, according to a release from the zoo. The boys name was not released.

Many people are claiming that the use of force was unnecessary and that it was the fault of the boy, his parents or even the zoo. While the incident is something that could have been prevented from happening in the first place and the parents could be called negligent, the boy needed to be removed from danger – and it’s not like the zoo is excited about having to kill one of their own.

“The Zoo security team’s quick response saved the child’s life.  We are all devastated that this tragic accident resulted in the death of a critically-endangered gorilla,” said Zoo Director Thane Maynard.  “This is a huge loss for the Zoo family and the gorilla population worldwide.”

“It’s a sad day all the way around,” Maynard said. “The right choice was made; it was a difficult choice. We have protocols and procedures, we do drills with our dangerous-animal response team. But we’ve never had a situation like this at the Cincinnati Zoo, where a dangerous animal needed to be dispatched in an emergency situation.”

 The zoo will reopen on Sunday but the gorilla exhibit will be closed until further notice.

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