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

Posted at 1:16 PM, May 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-01 13:40:19-04

Cincinnati, Ohio - The killing of 17-year-old Western lowland gorilla Harambe to protect a 4-year-old boy who had slipped away from his mother and entered the gorilla habitat at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden has galvanized social media. Many are left many wondering who to blame: the mother or the zoo?

Jack Hanna, the director of the Columbus Zoo and host of "Jack Hanna's Into the Wild" also says the Cincinnati Zoo made the right call by killing Harambe. He says the boy would have died if the gorilla wasn't killed.

"It was the right decision made," Hanna told WBNS-TV. "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."

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.”

An online petition seeking "Justice for Harambe" has more than 300,000 signatures. They suggest the boy's parents should be held criminally responsible for the incident.

Lt. Steve Saunders, the spokesman for the Cincinnati Police Department, said no charges were being pursued against the child's parents.

A 2-year-old boy fell into a cheetah exhibit at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in April 2015. The 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.