Dramatic new footage has emerged showing Harambe the gorilla seemingly protecting a young boy who fell into his cage – just minutes before he was shot dead.
However, onlookers have since claimed that the gorilla was showing no aggression towards the boy whatsoever.
Witnesses at the scene claim that screams from people watching the dramatic situation startled the animal, causing him to drag the child quickly across the water.
In this latest video, the boy is seen sitting calmly next to Harambe, with the gorilla appearing to wrap his arms around the child. At one point during the clip it seems the pair briefly hold hands.
The boy’s parents – Michelle Gregg and Deonne Dickerson – have faced heavy criticism on social media and from animal rights campaigners, who believe they should have been keeping a closer eye on their child.
Responding to the criticism on Facebook, Michelle said:
I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers today. What started off as a wonderful day turned into a scary one. For those of you that have seen the news or been on social media that was my son that fell in the gorilla exhibit at the zoo. God protected my child until the authorities were able to get to him.
Brittany Nicely was at the zoo with her children when the alleged ‘attack’ took place.
Speaking on Facebook, Brittany said:
R.I.P Harambe so so sad. Witnessing this situation and hearing them shoot him has been one of the most horrific things I have ever been a part of. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the staff at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and the people who witnessed it. Also sending prayers for a speedy recovery of the little boy!
Brittany also claimed that the gorilla was not being aggressive towards the boy, adding:
I tried to prevent it. I tried to grab him and I just couldn’t get to him fast enough. 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.
The director of the zoo, Thane Maynard, has since defended their decision to put the 400-pound-plus male gorilla down, calling it ‘a very sad day’ at the zoo.