Jeff McCurry/Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden via The Cincinatti Enquirer/ AP

Harambe was transferred to the Cincinnati Zoo in 2014

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June 01, 2016 03:00 PM

Harambe, the 17-year-old gorilla that was shot and killed on Saturday after a 4-year-old boy fell into his Cincinnati Zoo enclosure, is remembered for his intelligent and inquisitive nature.

The 450-pound Western Iowland silverback was born at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, on May 27, 1999 and came to the Cincinnati Zoo in September of 2014. Jerry Stones, the zookeeper who raised Harambe, compared his death to the loss of a family member.

“It tore me up, I was very close to him,” Stones said during a press conference. “He showed a positive attitude as far as leadership. He nurtured his siblings. He would carry them around. That was one of the reasons I pushed for him to go to Cincinnati, so that he could have a family.”

In a 2014 farewell Facebook post, the Gladys Porter Zoo wrote “The #CincinnatiZoo and big, new adventures are waiting for you, big boy!”

The Cincinnati Zoo posted a YouTube clip of Harambe on April 14, 2015, showing the then 16-year-old gorilla in his enclosure for the first time.

“Today, Harambe is making his debut in the gorilla habitat!” says narrator and Curator of Primates, Ron Evans, in the video.

Evans had previously described Harambe as “a future leader,” saying that he “demonstrates intelligence and curiosity, using sticks and things to reach for items outside his grasp.”

Another touching clip titled “Silverback Gorilla Harambe Meets His New Gal Pals Cincinnati Zoo” shows the male gorilla meeting females Chewie and Mara for the first time.

Zookeepers had hoped to breed Harambe, who was one of ten Western Iowland silverback gorillas at the zoo.

“He was a youngster and just starting to grow up,” Zoo Director Thane Maynard told The Washington Post. “And there was hopes to breed him. He was not quite of breeding maturity yet. But it’ll be a loss to the gene pool of lowland gorillas.”

Harambe was shot and killed by zoo officials after a 10-minute encounter with the toddler that had entered his enclosure. Video footage shows the gorilla dragging him across the moat.

Cincinnati police are investigating the family of the boy, saying on Tuesday that their review “is only regarding the actions of the parents/family that led up to the incident and not related to the operation or safety of the Cincinnati Zoo.”

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