A new recording seems to show Harambe the gorilla's affectionate final moments interacting and acting protectively towards a boy at Cincinnati Zoo before the gorilla was shot dead on May 28 (video below).
The 3-year-old boy, Isaiah Dickerson, can be seen playfully petting Harambe while calmly holding his hand, the Mirror reports.
The gorilla responds by holding the boy’s hand and touching his arm as onlookers scream. At one point, Harambe appears to wrap his arms around the boy.
A relaxed Harambe even helps the boy stand up, while young Isaiah looks at the gorilla in awe.
One expert says Harambe’s body language shows he was not trying to hurt the child but actually protecting him from the other male gorillas.
“He was clearly being protective towards the boy,” said ape expert Dr. Emily Bethell, a senior lecturer in primate behavior at England's Liverpool John Moores University. “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.”
Witnesses confirm the gorilla displayed no aggressive behavior towards the boy before being shot to death.
"Witnessing this situation and hearing them shoot him has been one of the most horrific things I have ever been a part of,” witness Britney Nicely said.
"What the first responders saw, I’m just not sure ... They said he was violently throwing the child around, which seems crazy to me. They have a picture of the boy sitting in front of the gorilla moments before they shot him,” she added.
Bethell says the gorilla may just have found the young boy interesting rather than a threat.
“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,” she said. “The child obviously wasn’t posing any threat to the gorillas so there’s 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.”
Others who knew the gorilla personally confirm the gorilla likely wasn’t trying to attack.
Jerry Stones, 74, from Texas, raised Harambe since he was born and described him as a "gentle giant."
"He was a special guy in my life. Harambe was my heart. It's like losing a member of the family,” Stones said.