A Cincinnati Zoo gorilla killed after a 4-year-old boy got into its enclosure over the weekend could have harmed the child if officials had not taken action, said wild animal expert Jack Hanna, according to ABC News
Hanna said quick action on Saturday by zoo workers to kill the endangered western lowland gorilla Harambe saved the boy's life.
A video of the gorilla with the boy has been viewed more than 12 million times on YouTube and, despite Hanna's assurances, there was growing doubt that the situation was handled properly.
"I can tell you now, that there's no doubt in my mind the child would not be here today if they hadn’t made that decision," ABC News quoted Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo in Ohio who has starred in numerous television shows about wild animals and conservation, including "Jack Hanna's Into the Wild."
Thane Maynard, president of the Cincinnati Zoo, said the boy crawled through a barrier and then fell about 10 to 12 feet into a moat around the gorilla habitat Saturday afternoon, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer
The 400-pound gorilla approached the boy and sat with him for awhile in the water, touching him and poking at him, and even stood him up in the water. The animal then tugged the boy around the enclosure for about 10 minutes before the zoo's emergency response team finally determined the situation was "life threatening" and shot the gorilla.
"The choice was made to put down, or shoot, Harambe, so he's gone," Maynard said, according to the Enquirer. "We've never had a situation like this at the Cincinnati Zoo where a dangerous animal needed to be dispatched in an emergency situation."
Witness Brittany Nicely, who was at the zoo with a group of children, said she saw the boy get through a protected area into the enclosure.
"Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the little boy in the bushes past the little fence area," Nicely said. "I tried to grab for him. I started yelling at him to come back. Everybody started screaming and going crazy. It happened so fast."
The incident sparked outrage on social media, with some blaming the parents for letting the boy get into the gorilla enclosure.
The boy's family released a statement saying that the child was "doing just fine" after being released from Cincinnati Hospital Medical Center on Saturday night, said the Enquirer.
Cincinnati Police Lt. Steve Saunders told the Enquirer that the child's parents will not face any charges.
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