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New Development In Harambe Death Investigation

| by John Freund

A new report claims that the barrier around the gorilla exhibit which housed Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo was not in compliance with regulations. 

The Huffington Post reports that a federal investigation has determined that the barrier did not meet inspection standards and might have been the cause of the 3-year-old boy’s fall into the enclosure, which led to the eventual shooting death of Harambe, the male gorilla inside the enclosure -- a gorilla that officials claim threatened the boy’s life. 

There was widespread criticism following the shooting of Harambe, with critics asking if it was indeed necessary to kill the adult male gorilla, since it was not acting aggressively toward the boy.  

Now a new controversy has arisen.  

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Zoo officials, for their part, claim that the barrier did meet federal regulations when it was inspected roughly one month prior to the boy’s fall. 

The Cincinnati Zoo has released the following statement in regard to the latest finding:  

The Cincinnati Zoo reaffirms its longstanding commitment to the well-being of the resident animals and the safety of those inspired to view and conserve them.  Its stellar record in that regard includes forty-three million visitors over the last four decades who have enjoyed the Gorilla World exhibit without coming in contact with the gorillas.  In its 38-year history, the barrier system at Gorilla World has always been found compliant during USDA inspections, including one conducted in April of 2016.  Following the incident this May, we modified the barrier to reassure the public and our visitors.

In a letter to the Cincinnati Zoo’s board of directors, Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer, Director, Animal Welfare Operations USDA, APHIS, Animal Care wrote:

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Animal Care recognizes and appreciates the swift and comprehensive actions taken in response to this incident, both the immediate response during the incident and the overall review of barrier systems throughout the facility. We also acknowledge that the barrier system at Gorilla World was considered to be in compliance with Section 3.78(e) of the Animal Welfare Act Regulations during inspections prior to the incident in question and had been performing admirably for many years.

We remain committed to visitor and animal safety and will continue to work with the USDA and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to ensure that our exhibits meet or exceed standards.

A previous report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited that the barrier did not meet federal regulations, but did not stipulate exactly what was wrong with it.  “It was in compliance until May 28th and then it was found to be not in compliance as it did not restrict public access from the nonhuman primate,” a Department of Agriculture spokeswoman said. 

In addition to citing the barrier, the federal report also noted that zoo officials acted properly in their response procedure.  

A zoo official shot and killed Harambe after the 17-year-old gorilla grabbed and dragged the boy who fell into the pit despite the zookeeper’s attempt to guide him away from the child. 

Sources: The Huffington Post, Cincinnati Zoo / Photo credit: Cincinnati Zoo via PBS

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