Cincinnati Zoo gorilla killed after 4-year-old falls into exhibit
CINCINNATI- A 4-year-old boy was hospitalized and a gorilla was shot and killed after the child fell into the animal’s exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
Cincinnati emergency crews and police responded to a report of a child falling in the gorilla exhibit around 4 p.m. Saturday.
Police confirmed that the boy was taken to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center near the zoo and was treated for non-life threatening injuries.
Cincinnati Zoo President Thane Maynard said the boy crawled through a barrier and fell an estimated 10 to 12 feet into the moat surrounding the exhibit. According to Maynard, the boy was not seriously injured by the fall.
However, the zoo’s 17-year-old male gorilla, Harambe, grabbed the boy and dragged him around. Two other female gorillas were also in the exhibit.
The boy was with the animal for about 10 minutes before the zoo’s Dangerous Response Team deemed the situation “life-threatening,” according to Maynard.
As a result of the incident, the gorilla was shot and killed.
"The choice was made to put down, or shoot, Harambe, so he's gone," Maynard said. "We've never had a situation like this at the Cincinnati Zoo where a dangerous animal needed to be dispatched in an emergency situation."
Maynard said the Dangerous Animal Response Team followed procedures which they practice in drills regularly.
He added that in the zoo’s 38-year history of the gorilla exhibit, the zoo had never experienced anyone getting into the exhibit.
“It's a sad day all the way around," Maynard said. "They made a tough choice. They made the right choice because they saved that little boy's life. It could have been very bad."
According to Maynard, the decision to shoot Harambe instead of tranquilizing him was for the boy’s safety.
“In an agitated situation, it may take quite awhile for the tranquilizer to take effect," he explained, "At the instant he would be hit, he would have a dramatic response. You don't hit him and he falls over."
Although the gorilla did not attack the child, the animal’s 400-pound size was a great danger.
"All sort of things could have happened in a situation like that. He certainly was at risk," Maynard said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and little boy.”
Zoo officials said that they will be reviewing the security of the enclosure and their procedures, but they said they have no plans to stop the gorilla program.
According to Maynard, zoo officials have not spoken to the child’s family.