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Mississippi zookeepers respond to Cincinnati incident

JACKSON, Miss.- In Cincinnati Ohio, a silverback gorilla was put to death after a four-year-old boy fell into the enclosure and attracted the animal’s attention. 

Mississippi zoos are speaking out on the action taken by Cincinnati Zoo officials to kill the animal in order to rescue the child.

“It’s a tragic situation for the zoo and a tragic situation for the family,” said Rick Taylor director of the Hattiesburg tourist commission who manages the Hattiesburg Zoo.

As a video of the child being drug around the enclosure has gone viral, many are asking if the zoo did the right thing by killing the animal. Many comments on social media, linked to the video, have taken the stance that the animal was just scared by all of the noise and trying to protect the child.

“We can all ask, ‘Well what if he was doing something different,’ a gorilla is a wild animal and we don’t know what he was doing, but the zoo knew there was a four year old child and they did what they had to,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the ultimate goal of any zoo is to conserve and protect the lives of the animals, however in a situation like this you must act quickly in order to save the life of the child.

The Jackson Zoo responded via email with a statement from Beth Poff, Director of the zoo:

“Jackson Zoo, along with the entire zoo and aquarium community, offer our most heartfelt sympathies to the staff of the Cincinnati Zoo, as well as to the family of the boy who climbed through a barrier and fell in the moat at Gorilla World at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden this past Saturday.

We know and understand how tough it must have been for the zoo’s animal response team to make the difficult decision to shoot the gorilla “Harambe”, in order to save the life of the boy.   Part of the safety measures that zoos have in place is to train and have drills for just these type situations, and the Cincinnati team made the quick and correct decision.

Heartbreaking to lose such a beautiful animal but a little boy is alive and is a reminder to us all that children must be monitored closely, no matter how many safety barriers are in place.”

Taylor said that while zoos do have protocol and boundaries set up to prevent these events from happening, people will often ignore them and climb into enclosures putting themselves and others at risk.

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