Animal Rights

Cincinnati Zoo Under Fire For Killing Gorilla

| by Michael Howard
Memorial for HarambeMemorial for Harambe

The Cincinnati Zoo is under fire for its decision to shoot and kill a critically endangered, 17-year-old western lowland gorilla instead of tranquilizing him.

Harambe was shot by authorities on May 28 after he picked up a 4-year-old boy who had fallen into his enclosure. The zoo had celebrated the animal's birthday the day before.

Many people are outraged over Harambe's death, and zoo officials have been forced to answer a number of questions about whether the killing was justified.

Some critics said Harambe, who was seen carrying the boy around the enclosure, should have been subdued non-lethally with a tranquilizer dart. Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard said doing so was not a consideration.

"The idea of waiting and shooting it with a hypodermic was not a good idea," he said at a press conference on May 30, according to People. "That would have definitely created alarm in the male gorilla. When you dart an animal, anesthetic doesn't work in one second, it works over a period of a few minutes to 10 minutes. The risk was due to the power of that animal."

While some maintained that Harambe was merely trying to protect the child, Maynard said the situation was too volatile to leave to chance.

"[Harambe] was acting erratically, he was disoriented," Maynard said. "It's due to his strength, that's where the danger was."

Ian Redmond, chairman of The Gorilla Organization, told CNN that there were still more options.

"When gorillas or other apes have things they shouldn’t have, keepers will negotiate with them, bring food, their favorite treats, pineapple or some kind of fruit that they don’t know and negotiate with them," he said. "I don't know if that was tried or people thought there was too much danger, but it does seem very unfortunate that a lethal shot was required."

Gorillas have been known to behave in a nurturing manner toward human beings. In 1996, when a 3-year-old boy fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, a female gorilla named Binti Jua carried the boy to a door so that zoo staff could rescue him, all while shielding him from the other gorillas, according to ABC News. The incident was captured on video and made worldwide headlines.

Sources: People, ABC News, CNN / Photo Credit: Justice for Harambe/Facebook via BBC News

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