‘Zoos aren’t your babysitter’: Animal experts speak out on zoo’s decision to shoot, kill rare gorilla

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CINCINNATI, Ohio -- Two well-known animal experts are agreeing with the actions taken after a 4-year-old boy slipped into the enclosure of a rare gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo Saturday.

The boy's family was visiting the zoo when the boy slipped away and entered the enclosure. The boy went under a rail, through wires and over a moat wall to get into the enclosure, according to the zoo. Footage shot by a witness shows the 17-year-old silverback Harambe dragging the child through the water as the clamor of the crowd grew louder.

**To watch a video that shows the tense moments right after the boy slipped into the Cincinnati Zoo exhibit Saturday, click here**

Zookeepers shot the 450-pound gorilla with a rifle rather than tranquilizing him. Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard said he stands by the decision to kill Harambe in order to save the child. The child was taken to the hospital but has since been released.

Jack Hanna, the director of the Columbus Zoo, also says the Cincinnati Zoo made the right call by killing Harambe.

The host of "Jack Hanna's Into the Wild" tells WBNS-TV that he saw video of the gorilla jerking the boy through a shallow moat in the exhibit Saturday afternoon.

Hanna says the boy would have died if the gorilla wasn't killed.

"It was the right decision made," Hanna said. "There was no other decision to make. You have human life, you have animal life. No one loves humans and animals more than the Hanna family or the zoo world. And they made the right decision."

**For amazing video of a mother gorilla cradling a boy who fell into an ape pit in Illinois in 1996, click here**

Animal expert Jeff Corwin agreed with the Cincinnati Zoo in that tranquilizers may have taken too long.

"In some situations, depending on what the medication is, it can take upward to 10 to 15 minutes," Corwin said. "It may take multiple shots."

Corwin told Fox 25 that the lesson is for parents to treat zoos with the respect they deserve.

“Zoos aren’t your babysitter,” he said. “Take a break from the cell phone, the selfie stick and the texting. Connect with your children. Be responsible for your children. I don’t think this happened in seconds or minutes. I think this took time for this kid, this little boy to find himself in that situation. Ultimately it’s the gorilla that’s paid this price.”

Some suggested the boy's parents should be held criminally responsible for the incident. An online petition seeking "Justice for Harambe" earned more than 100,000 signatures in less than 48 hours.

"This beautiful gorilla lost his life because the boy's parents did not keep a closer watch on the child," the petition states.

Cincinnati Police Lt. Stephen Saunders said he is "not aware of any intention to charge the mother" or "the parents" at this time.

Meanwhile, the zoo maintains that it's safe for the 1.6 million people who visit each year.

Maynard says a review is underway to determine possible improvements.

The zoo says the Saturday incident was the first spectator breach at Gorilla World since it opened in 1978. Maynard says expansion plans announced for the exhibit earlier this year would proceed as scheduled.

He says Gorilla World could reopen next weekend.

A 2-year-old boy fell into a cheetah exhibit at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in April 2015. he boy fell between 10 and 12 feet and was removed from the exhibit and taken to the hospital.

His injuries were not caused by the cheetahs.

His mother was charged and was sentenced to probation and counseling.

Continuing coverage here.