Family of toddler who fell into gorilla enclosure thanks zookeepers
CINCINNATI - The family of the toddler who fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo said their child is “doing well” and thanked zookeepers who fatally shot an endangered gorilla in order to rescue the 3-year-old boy.
“Our child has had a checkup by his doctor and is still doing well. We continue to praise God for His grace and mercy, and to be thankful to the Cincinnati Zoo for their actions taken to protect our child,” the family said in a statement to ABC News today.
The boy fell 15 feet into about 18 inches of water in the animal’s enclosure after crawling over a stainless steel barrier Saturday. Harambe, a 17-year-old silverback gorilla, was “six times stronger than a man” and acting “erratically” when he was shot and killed with the young child between his legs, said Thane Maynard, the director of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.
The family, which continues to decline all interview and meeting requests, said those who wish to offer them gifts should instead donate to the Cincinnati Zoo in memory of the 450-pound gorilla, who was nicknamed Handsome Harambe by zookeepers for his good looks.
“We are also very appreciative for the expressions of concern and support that have been sent to us. Some have offered money to the family, which we do not want and will not accept. If anyone wishes to make a gift, we recommend a donation to the Cincinnati Zoo in Harambe’s name,” the family said in a statement to ABC News today.
The incident has struck national outrage from animal rights activists as well as citizens concerned about zoo safety. Prosecutors from Hamilton County, Ohio, said the Cincinnati Police Department will look into the incident for possible criminal charges.
"The incident at the Cincinnati Zoo involving the young child who fell into the gorilla enclosure is under investigation by the Cincinnati Police Department," Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters said in a statement Tuesday. "Once their investigation is concluded, they will confer with our office on possible criminal charges. When the investigation and review are complete, we will update the media."
In a later statement, the police department said that its review "is only regarding the actions of the parents-family that led up to the incident and not related to the operation or safety of the Cincinnati Zoo."
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums said it will also conduct a probe into the shooting death of Harambe. The AZA will request a report from the zoo, which will be reviewed by the accreditation commission, spokesman Rob Vernon said.
The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.