New footage suggests Harambe the gorilla was protecting the 4-year-old boy who fell into his enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo May 28 (video below).
The new footage shows Harambe wrapping his arms around Isaiah, the Daily Mirror reported. At one point, Harambe even appears to be holding the child’s hand. It is claimed that the screams of eyewitnesses startled the gorilla, causing him to dash across the water, dragging the child with him.
Dr. Emily Bethell, senior lecturer in primate behavior at Liverpool John Moores University, told the Daily Mail that Harambe’s body language showed he was not threatening the boy:
He was clearly being protective toward the boy. There were no signs of the gorilla being aggressive in the sense that he wanted to hurt the boy or anything like that. The biggest threat to the boy, I would say, is obviously when the gorilla moved and dragged him. That could have caused some harm, but the gorilla’s body language is definitely protective.
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I would speculate that the boy is a new stimulus, he’s something novel. The gorillas would never have seen a child at such close quarters. The child obviously wasn’t posing any threat to the gorillas so there [was] no need to attack him and I think it’s fortunate for the boy that one gorilla came over and effectively shielded him and kept the other gorillas away. I think it looks mostly like a case of extreme interest by the gorillas.
Several animal lovers have expressed their outrage after the 17-year-old silverback gorilla was fatally shot to protect Isaiah.
A petition was even started to hold Isaiah’s parents accountable for the death of the endangered gorilla. That petition has garnered more than 429,000 signatures.
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The petition states:
We the undersigned believe that the child would not have been able to enter the enclosure under proper parental supervision. Witnesses claim that they heard the child state that he wished to go into the enclosure and was actively trying to breach the barriers. This should have prompted the parents to immediately remove the child from the vicinity. It is believed that the situation was caused by parental negligence and the zoo is not responsible for the child's injuries and possible trauma.
We the undersigned want the parents to be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life. We the undersigned feel the child's safety is paramount in this situation. We believe that this negligence may be reflective of the child's home situation.
We the undersigned actively encourage an investigation of the child's home environment in the interests of protecting the child and his siblings from further incidents of parental negligence that may result in serious bodily harm or even death.
In a Facebook post, Isaiah’s mother defended her case:
I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers today. 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.
As a society we are quick to judge how a parent could take their eyes off of their child and if anyone knows me I keep a tight watch on my kids. Accidents happen but I am thankful that the right people were in the right place today.
Police are currently investigating the matter and will decide if Isaiah’s parents will be charged with child neglect.