SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Harambe, the gorilla shot and killed by a response team at the Cincinnati Zoo after he dragged a 4-year-old boy who fell into his enclosure, Saturday, was the son of the very first gorilla born at Zoo Miami, officials said.
Dramatic cellphone video captured the 17-year-old western lowland gorilla with the screaming child in his hands. Officials said the boy had climbed through a barrier and dropped 15 feet into the exhibit’s moat at the Ohio zoo.
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Zoo Miami spokesperson Ron Magill said he’s certain the animal did not intend to harm the 4-year-old. “It’s a 400-pound animal with massive strength,” he said. “I’ve seen these adult gorilla take a coconut in their bare hands and break it. A green coconut — not a rotten coconut, a green coconut — and break it. Understand that kind of power. I know that this gorilla didn’t want to hurt that child, but he didn’t know his own strength, and he was agitated.”
The footage captured people’s screams as Harambe looked down at the boy, then back at the zoo visitors. “The gorilla took him to one end of his habitat, and the little boy started screaming again, and the gorilla dragged him back again,” said zoo visitor Patricia Harvey.
Harvey added that the child had expressed a desire to go into the enclosure prior to the incident. “The little boy himself had already been talking about wanting to go in, go in, get in the water,” she said, “and his mother was like, ‘No, you’re not.'”
There were also two female gorillas in the enclosure, but they complied with calls from zoo staff to leave the exhibit. Harambe, however, did not.
The critically endangered silverback gorilla, who was in Ohio on loan, was shot and killed by the zoo because of the threat he posed. The frightening ordeal lasted about 10 minutes.
Harambe’s father, Moja, is no longer at Zoo Miami, but his grandmother, 49-year-old Josephine, is still on exhibit.
Zoo officials said they are comfortable with their decision to put down Harambe. They said the death was a painful loss, but a tranquilizer dart could have put the child, who is OK, in greater danger. “You don’t hit him and he falls over. It would take a few minutes,” said Cincinnati Zoo spokesperson Thane Maynard.
Magill agreed with the response team’s call to shoot Harambe. “You don’t have to explain it to us. We knew that the decision was absolutely the right decision,” he said.
Zoo Miami officials took the opportunity to remind visitors to watch their children closely.
Cincinnati Zoo officials said they’d never had a breach on their gorilla enclosure before Saturday’s incident.
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