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Silverback Mountain Gorilla, Democratic Republic of Congo

Source: by Marc Guitard / Getty (representative image, this is not Harambe)


The mother of the little boy who climbed into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo is now defending herself after zookeepers killed the animal. Michelle Gregg posted on Facebook that society is quick to judge parents for taking their eyes off of their kids, but added that she keeps a tight watch on her children and accidents happen. The post has been taken down but the public immediately criticized her for not mentioning anything about Harambe, the 17-year-old gorilla who was a part of the facility’s renowned breeding program, that was killed Saturday to save her son.

The head of the Cincinnati Zoo, Thane Maynard, says they’re heartbroken over the loss of their animal, but says his team made the right decision to shoot the silver back gorilla. He said the gorilla was disoriented when he discovered the boy in the enclosure. The animal dragged the child through the water which banged his head on concrete. Maynard said once it was determined the child was in fact being injured, they had to make the difficult decision to shoot it. Maynard also pointed out that using a tranquilizer dart simply would have aggravated Harambe and they couldn’t take a risk with the child’s life in danger.

Maynard said the zoo is not negligent and the barriers around the enclosure are safe. He said whatever the barrier is, someone will be able to get past it. To save this child’s life, he says he’d make the same decision again. 

NBC News is reporting that officials are not looking to criminally charge the mother of the little boy. They did not use her name. This incident continues to spark national backlash from animal activists and others—some who demonstrated outside of the zoo’s walls Sunday. The news organization is also reporting that the mother works as an administrator in childcare, responsible for the safety of other people’s children. On her Facebook page in the same post, Gregg thanked everyone for their thoughts and prayers–and thanked the zoo and God for protecting her child.  “Accidents happen,” she said. “But I am thankful that the right people were in the right place today.” She went on to say her son walked away from the incident with a concussion and a few scrapes but no broken bones or internal injuries.

The zoo stands by its decision. In light of the loss of Harambe, his genetics may live on. The Cincinnati Zoo hopes DNA collected from his body may be able to be used for future breeding. Scientists had hoped to breed the endangered primate when he got older. It may still be a possibility thanks to the DNA samples collected from him before it was too late. Tissue samples could also be used to assist in research and genetic diversity.

For now, the exhibit remains closed, as it will likely be until sometime next week. Over 100,000 people have signed an online petition calling for a law with penalties for zoo visitors whose negligence leads to the death of an endangered animal. The Cincinnati Zoo is about a two-hour drive from Indianapolis.

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