Some experts have said Harambe, the gorilla that was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo on May 28, was actually non-violent.
After a 4-year-old boy fell into Harambe's enclosure at the zoo that day, the gorilla was seen picking him up and carrying him around, The Age reports. Zoo staff then fatally shot Harambe with a rifle.
Professor Gisela Kaplan, an animal behavior expert, said Harambe was a "gentle giant" who initially sought to protect the child.
She said it is likely the gorilla dragged the boy away to guard him in response to onlookers’ screams.
"Gorillas don't attack," she told radio station 3AW, according to The Age. "They are a peaceful species. They will only attack if there's a real threat to their own existence. There are records of them saving children before in very similar situations when a child had fallen into an enclosure.”
While Kaplan agreed the child’s life was a greater priority than the gorilla’s, she said she believed there could have been a peaceful resolution.
"[Harambe] was probably doing all the kind of benign things that a gorilla can do and he was being penalized for it and lost his life and traumatized his entire family," she said. "Why couldn't they have shot him in the shoulder?"
Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard disagreed.
"This child was being dragged around," he said. " His head was banging on the concrete. This was not a gentle thing. The child was at risk. We're very fortunate that he was OK."
Maynard added that tranquilizers may not have kicked in quickly enough to save the child from further danger.
"The gorilla was clearly agitated," he said. "Looking back, we would make the same decision."
Meanwhile the boy is recovering from a concussion, his mother Michelle Gregg said.
"I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers today," she wrote on Facebook. "What started off as a wonderful day turned into a scary one. For those of you that have seen the news or been on social media that was my son that fell in the gorilla exhibit at the zoo.
"God protected my child until the authorities were able to get to him. My son is safe and was able to walk away with a concussion and a few scrapes ... no broken bones or internal injuries.”
The mother also expressed her sadness over the death of Harambe.