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Cincinnati Zookeepers shoot gorilla after child breaches habitat

Harambe the 17-year-old gorilla was shot on Friday after a child breached his habitat.
Photo credit:
abcnews.go.com

Tragedy struck at the Cincinnati Zoo on Friday, June 27.

A 3-year-old child fell into the zoo’s gorilla enclosure where a 17-year-old Silverback named Harambe grabbed him and dragged him through the habitat.

Zoo officials worried for the infant’s safety, and killed the huge beast within ten minutes of the incident.

According to CNN, the child said he was going to enter display then maneuvered through barrier rails, wires and a moat to get to Harambe. A visitor took video of the incident (see below).

Once the child breached the animal's environment, the gorilla then dragged him along the ground and through a puddle of water. 

Fearing for the child's safety, zoo officials decided to lethally stop the gorilla instead of tranquilizing him, a judgment Cincinnati Zoo Director Zane Maynard says he would do again.

"That child's life was in danger,” he said. “People who question that don't understand you can't take a risk with a silverback gorilla -- this is a dangerous animal. Looking back, we'd make the same decision. The child is safe."

The internet became a hotbed of finger pointing saying that the parents should have had a better watch on their child, and therefore be prosecuted for parental negligence. A petition titled “Justice for Harambe” has already raised over 100,000 signatures:

Witnesses claim that they heard the child state that he wished to go into the enclosure and was actively trying to breach the barriers. This should have prompted the parents to immediately remove the child from the vicinity,” the petition claims.

The parents are asking for privacy, but made this statement through a public relations firm:

"We are so thankful to the Lord that our child is safe. He is home and doing just fine. We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff. We know that this was a very difficult decision for them, and that they are grieving the loss of their gorilla. We hope that you will respect our privacy at this time."

Maynard is not putting the blame on anyone,

"We had a very difficult situation and we made a difficult call at the end. I'm not here to point fingers about fault," he said.

"We live in the real world, we make real decisions. People and kids can climb over barriers. We work hard to make sure this zoo is safe. People can climb over barriers, that's what happened."

The Cincinnati Zoo is making a thorough inspection of the enclosure before the exhibit is made available to the public once again.