On 28 May, after a 4-year-old slipped into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, a 17-year-old Western lowland silverback Harambe was shot dead to protect the child, causing widespread outrage.
Shooting down allegations surrounding the lack of adequate protective measures, Thane Maynard, Director of the Cincinnati Zoo, insisted that the three-foot high barrier surrounding the gorilla enclosure met all required protocols.
"The barriers are safe. The barriers exceed any required protocols," he was quoted as saying, while addressing a news conference. "The trouble with barriers is that whatever the barrier some people can get past it. ... No, the zoo is not negligent," he said.
According to Maynard, the exhibit met standards set by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The zoo officials have maintained that the gorilla was not simply endangering the child, but actually hurting him, leaving them with no option but to shoot the gorilla in order to rescue the trapped 4-year-old. "The gorilla was clearly agitated. The gorilla was clearly disoriented," Maynard was quoted as saying while lamenting the death of "an incredibly magnificent animal", according to a Reuters report.
The incident, however, sparked widespread outrage from animal lovers, who staged a vigil outside the zoo. A petition has been floated on Change.org, protesting the shooting, and has already garnered more than 20,000 signatures.
People are forming a vigil for gorilla Harambe outside the Cincinnati Zoo two days after he was killed. pic.twitter.com/FeRUw0qO0n— AJ+ (@ajplus) May 30, 2016