Endangered Silverback Gorilla Shot and Killed at Cincinnati Zoo When Small Boy Climbs into Enclosure

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A tragedy at the Cincinnati Zoo has ended well for a 4-year-old who managed to find his way into the Gorilla enclosure, but it didn’t end well for the one gorilla that zoo officials shot and killed to prevent it from attacking the child.

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The Gorilla, a 17-year-old named Harambe, was killed Saturday by a Cincinnati Zoo employee. Zoo officials feared Harambe would kill child who had climbed into its enclosure.


This has been a rough stretch for wildlife in zoos. Earlier this month, several lions were killed to prevent them from eating a suicidal man in Chile. Many who heard of that incident sided with the lions, but this case is different. Even those who are vocal about the protection of Gorillas would find this situation impossible.

It is still unclear why the child climbed under a railing and through wires before falling 10 feet into the enclosure Saturday afternoon. First responders “witnessed a gorilla who was violently dragging and throwing the child,” Cincinnati Fire Department Chief Marc Monahan wrote in a statement.


“The threat from the gorilla was neutralized by a Cincinnati Zoo employee with one shot from a long rifle,” the statement said. The child, conscious through the whole attack, was then pulled from the enclosure and taken to a local hospital in serious condition.

Harambe, a 400 pound male Western lowland silverback, was from a group of gorillas considered critically endangered.


“The zoo’s in the business of taking care of endangered animals, and we don’t want to be in the situation in which they have to be killed,” Maynard said. “But all sorts of things could happen in a situation like that. The right choice was made.”

“The Zoo security team’s quick response saved the child’s life,” Maynard said.


Why not take a less lethal option? Zoos always have tranquilizers on hand for emergencies. Yet, due to Harambe’s size, a tranquilizer might take several minutes to knock him out, and those were minutes the Zoo couldn’t afford.

“We are all devastated that this tragic accident resulted in the death of a critically-endangered gorilla,” Maynard sai. “This is a huge loss for the Zoo family and the gorilla population worldwide.”

The outdoor gorilla center has been a Cincinnati destination 38 years. This is the first time a person has managed to make it inside. Leave it to a 4-year-old to crack security.