Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard defended the decision to shoot and kill 17-year-old gorilla Harambe after a 4-year-old boy fell 15 feet into the enclosure on Saturday.
“The idea of waiting and shooting it with a hypodermic was not a good idea,” Maynard said at a press conference Monday. “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.”
The child climbed through a public barrier, falling into the Gorilla World exhibit’s moat. After he fell, two female gorillas were removed from the enclosure immediately, but Harambe remained close to the child. Video footage shows Harambe grabbing the boy and carrying him around the enclosure.
“He was acting erratically, he was disoriented,” Maynard said. “It’s due to his strength, that’s where the danger was.”
The family of the 4-year-old boy thanked the Zoo staff for making the decision to shoot the gorilla.
“We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff. We know that this was a very difficult decision for them and that they are grieving the loss of their gorilla,” the statement reads.
A petition titled Justice for Harambe asking the Cincinnati Zoo, Hamilton County Child Protection Services and the Cincinnati Police Department to hold the parents responsible has gained close to 200,000 signatures.
However, Maynard said the Zoo will not be pressing charges against the family.
“Everybody should keep hold of their kids,” Maynard continued. “Here, the mall, the schoolyard. But the zoo is a safe place.”
The boy is “doing just fine” said the family in a statement. He was released from the hospital Saturday night.
A vigil for Harambe was held near the front entrance to the zoo on Monday afternoon. “This is an action in response of a sensless death,” wrote Anthony Seta, creator of the event on Facebook. “I know how we are all angry and upset over this situation. This demonstration is in memory of Harambe. This is not a protest against the zoo.”
People have been leaving flowers and notes in memory of Harambe around the gorilla statue at the entrance to Gorilla World, Maynard said.
Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall has extended her sympathies, according to Maynard.