Animal rights activists have reacted strongly on social media following the killing of a gorilla at a zoo after a child fell into its pen.
A special response team were forced to shoot and kill the lowland gorilla – named Harambe – at Cincinnati Zoo after the four-year-old was grabbed by the animal after tumbling into the enclosure.
The zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team had to judge whether the situation was life-threatening for the child, coming to the conclusion that the boy was in severe danger and, sadly, Harambe needed to be put down.
According to Mashable, tranquillisers can take several minutes to work, so the team decided that Harambe had to be killed.
Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard said:
The child was not under attack, but all sorts of things could happen. He certainly was at risk.
Despite the experts making the difficult call, social media has reacted strongly to the death of the gorilla, with #RIPHarambe trending on Twitter and a Facebook page ‘Justice for Harambe’ created.
Some have blamed the boy’s parents for not protecting him, while others believe the zoo did not do enough to secure the enclosure.
Make the enclosures impenetrable or have security for each exhibit. Stop killing these captive animals bc of irresponsible ppl.
— Devi Brown (@DeviBrown) May 29, 2016
The zoo have responded to the criticism in a Facebook post, explaining how and why they came to the difficult decision.
The post reads:
We are heartbroken about losing Harambe, but a child’s life was in danger and a quick decision had to be made by our Dangerous Animal Response Team.
Our first response was to call the gorillas out of the exhibit. The two females complied, but Harambe did not. It is important to note that with the child still in the exhibit, tranquillising the 450-pound gorilla was not an option.
Tranquillisers do not take effect for several minutes and the child was in imminent danger. On top of that, the impact from the dart could agitate the animal and cause the situation to get much worse.
It sounds like it was an incredibly difficult decision that was not taken at all lightly. RIP Harambe.