The director of the Cincinnati Zoo insisted on Monday that a three-foot (one-meter) barrier around the gorilla enclosure was adequate, even though a 4-year-old boy was able to climb over it and fall in, forcing zookeepers to shoot the ape dead after it grabbed him and dragged him around.
The death of the gorilla, a 17-year-old Western lowland silverback named Harambe, outraged animal lovers, about 20 of whom staged a vigil outside the zoo. More than 200,000 people signed online petitions on Change.org to protest the shooting, some demanding “Justice for Harambe” and urging police to hold the child’s parents accountable.
“The barriers are safe. The barriers exceed any required protocols,” Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, said in answer to questions at a news conference about the incident on Saturday. “The trouble with barriers is that whatever the barrier some people can get past it. … No, the zoo is not negligent,” he said.
Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, stood by the decision to shoot the gorilla after he dragged the boy around by the ankle. He said the ape was not simply endangering the child but actually hurting him.
A family statement on Sunday expressed condolences for the animal’s death.
“We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff,” the statement said. “We know that this was a very difficult decision for them, and that they are grieving the loss of their gorilla.”