A zoo official from the Cincinnati Zoo in the United States of America said workers shot and killed a western lowland gorilla on Saturday to save the life of a 4-year-old boy who crawled through a barrier and slipped into the animal’s enclosure.
According to witnesses, Harambe, a 17-year-old, 400-pound western lowland gorilla got the boy as he fell into its territory and dragged him around its natural habitat for about 10 minutes.
The zoo’s dangerous animal response team considered this a life-threatening situation, Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard said during a press briefing.
The scared little boy was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries after the gorilla was gunned down with a rifle.
Though the boy was not under attack literally, the zoo’s response team was left with the sole option of shooting the gorilla rather than tranquilize him because a tranquilizer would not have taken effect immediately.
“You don’t hit him and he falls over,” Thane said. “It takes a few minutes.”
“It seemed by our own dangerous animals response team to be a life-threatening situation,” he said. “They saved that little boy’s life.”
Sadly, the western lowland gorilla is a critically endangered species, as revealed by the World Wildlife Fund’s webpage. They can be found in the wild in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea.
The lowland gorilla Harambe, whose birthday was Friday, was born at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, Thane lamented.
According to Thane, it appeared the boy went under the rail, through wires and over the moat wall down to the enclosure.
As part of the strategies to save the boy, two female gorillas were called out of the habitat, but the male gorilla went to the moat, picked up the child and began dragging him in a tour around the enclosure.
“The child was not under attack but all sorts of things could happen,” Thane said. “He certainly was at risk.”
Though the Cincinnati Zoo employees are mourning the loss of a rare species, they are also glad that the zoo security team’s quick response saved the boy’s life.