Killing of gorilla to save boy at Ohio zoo sparks outrage

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Sadness, outrage over killing of zoo gorilla

May 29 (Reuters) - The killing of a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo after a 4-year-old boy tumbled into the ape's enclosure triggered outrage and questions about safety, but zoo officials called the decision to use lethal force a tough but necessary choice.

More than 2,000 people signed a petition on Change.org that sharply criticized the Cincinnati Police Department and the zoo for putting down the animal and called for the child's parents to be "held accountable for their actions of not supervising their child."

Cincinnati police on Sunday said the parents had not been charged, but that charges could eventually be sought by the Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney. A spokeswoman for the prosecutor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SEE ALSO: Cincinnati gorilla killed after boy falls into zoo enclosure

Authorities did not identify the child or his parents. The family could not be reached on Sunday.

A Facebook page titled "Justice for Harambe" had more than 3,000 likes by Sunday afternoon, a day after the 400-pound (181-kg) gorilla was shot dead about 10 minutes after encountering and dragging the child. The animal, named Harambe, was a Western lowland gorilla, an endangered species, and the zoo said it had intended to use him for breeding.

"If we think it's acceptable to kill a gorilla who has done nothing wrong, I don't think our city should have gorillas," Manvinder Singh posted on the Facebook page.

A blog post on the website for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals questioned why it was necessary to kill the gorilla and whether zoos could meet the needs of such animals.

"A 17-year-old gorilla named Harambe is dead, and a child is in the hospital. Why?" blogger Jennifer O'Connor wrote. "Western lowland gorillas are gentle animals. They don't attack unless they're provoked."

Witnesses told local television that the boy repeatedly expressed a desire to join the gorilla in the zoo habitat. Moments later, the boy crawled through a barrier and fell about 12 feet (3.7-meters) into a moat surrounding the habitat, where Harambe grabbed him, zoo officials said.

See photos of the gorilla and how people are reacting to the shooting:

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Gorilla killed after toddler falls into moat
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Killing of gorilla to save boy at Ohio zoo sparks outrage
Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by Cincinnati Zoo. REUTERS/Cincinnati Zoo/Handout via ReutersATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
A child touches the head of a gorilla statue where flowers have been placed outside the Gorilla World exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Sunday, May 29, 2016, in Cincinnati. On Saturday, a special zoo response team shot and killed Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla, that grabbed and dragged a 4-year-old boy who fell into the gorilla exhibit moat. Authorities said the boy is expected to recover. He was taken to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Lucas Salcedo, 5, points toward the shuttered Gorilla World exhibit as he asks his father if they could enter at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Sunday, May 29, 2016, in Cincinnati. On Saturday, a special zoo response team shot and killed Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla, that grabbed and dragged a 4-year-old boy who fell into the gorilla exhibit moat. Authorities said the boy is expected to recover. He was taken to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Visitors pass a gorilla statue where flowers have been placed outside the Gorilla World exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Sunday, May 29, 2016, in Cincinnati. On Saturday, a special zoo response team shot and killed Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla, that grabbed and dragged a 4-year-old boy who fell into the gorilla exhibit moat. Authorities said the boy is expected to recover. He was taken to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Children pause at the feet of a gorilla statue where flowers and a sympathy card have been placed, outside the Gorilla World exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Sunday, May 29, 2016, in Cincinnati. On Saturday, a special zoo response team shot and killed Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla, that grabbed and dragged a 4-year-old boy who fell into the gorilla exhibit moat. Authorities said the boy is expected to recover. He was taken to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Children read a sympathy card left at the feet of a gorilla statue outside the Gorilla World exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Sunday, May 29, 2016, in Cincinnati. On Saturday, a special zoo response team shot and killed Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla, that grabbed and dragged a 4-year-old boy who fell into the gorilla exhibit moat. Authorities said the boy is expected to recover. He was taken to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
This #Gorilla thing has me stressed out, I know that there was a child in the cage, but the animal did nothing to the child.
I'm so mad reading about this gorilla story . The gorilla didn't even look like a threat
The parents need to be held accountable RT @Channel4News: gorilla shot dead after a boy fell into its zoo enclosure https://t.co/54KjJju8i3
A magnificent gorilla dies because parents can't watch their kids. There I fixed it https://t.co/k8pUBs2SGV
Put endangered gorilla in zoo. Allow child into gorilla's cage. Shoot gorilla dead. Redefine "conservation". https://t.co/TeWZJSBuE9
I may be ignorant to gorilla psychology but, if the gorilla wanted to harm the boy, wouldn't he have done it? looked like protection to me
Yo kid stumble into a gorilla cage, pretty sure that gorilla can raise the kid better than you
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It was the first time in the 38-year history of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden's gorilla exhibit that an unauthorized person was able to get into the enclosure, zoo president Thane Maynard said on Saturday.

"They made a tough choice and they made the right choice because they saved that little boy's life," he said, adding that a member of the zoo's Dangerous Animal Response Team fired the shot that killed the ape.

Maynard said the team decided to use deadly force instead of tranquilizers to subdue the gorilla because it could have taken some time for the drug to take effect when an animal was in agitated state.

The child was taken to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. Hospital officials, citing privacy laws, declined to say on Sunday whether the child had been released or to disclose any details about his injuries.

Western lowland gorilla numbers in the dense rain forests of Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea have declined by more than 60 percent over the last 20 to 25 years, according to the World Wildlife Federation.

The Cincinnati zoo was open on Sunday, although Gorilla World was expected to be closed indefinitely. Neither the zoo nor the fire department responded to a request for comment.

At other U.S. zoos, similar encounters have ended in tragedy, including the 2013 fatal mauling of a 2-year-old boy by a pack of wild African dogs after he fell into an exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.

A man who in 2012 jumped into an enclosure at New York's Bronx Zoo to be "one with the tiger" suffered bite wounds and other injuries but survived.

But there was a happy ending when a 3-year-old boy fell into the gorilla den at Brookfield Zoo near Chicago in 1996, and an 8-year-old female gorilla named Binti Jua picked up the unconscious boy and protected him from the other primates. The act of kindness won Binti Jua national attention as Newsweek's Hero of the Year and one of People's most intriguing people.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Additional reporting and editing by Frank McGurty and Nick Zieminski)

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