The Cincinnati Zoo director is publicly defending the decision to shoot and kill Harambe the gorilla after a boy fell into his enclosure.
Zoo director Thomas Maynard argues the 17-year-old gorilla was not a gentle creature and that he had seen the animal "take a coconut and crush it," the Daily Mail reports.
“This child was being dragged around and his head was banging on the concrete. This was not a gentle thing,” Maynard said. “We did not take the shooting lightly. But that child's life was in danger and people who question that, or are Monday morning quarterbacks or second-guessers, don't understand that you can't take a risk with a silverback gorilla.”
Maynard added that -- given the gorilla was six times stronger than an adult male -- his erratic behavior warranted such a drastic step.
“Looking back, we would make the same decision. We are heartbroken about losing Harambe, but a child's life was in danger and a quick decision had to be made,” Maynard said.
He explained tranquilizing the gorilla was not an option because it may not have sedated the animal quickly enough to save the child.
Other zookeepers agree with Maynard’s stance.
“I'll bet my life on this [if the gorilla was not shot], that child would not be here today,” Jack Hanna said.
Yet some experts, and those who directly worked with Harambe, disagree the gorilla needed to be shot
“He was a character. He grew up to be a beautiful, beautiful animal, never aggressive and never mean,” said Jerry Stones, who had raised Harambe since he was born. “He would tease the heck out of people and would do things to irritate you just like some kids.”
Stones said he even let the gorilla sleep with him on his bed when it was a baby.
Professor Gisela Kaplan, who has worked with gorillas like Harambe, called the animal a "gentle giant," The Age reports.
"Gorillas don't attack. They are a peaceful species," she said. "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,” she said.