After a 3-year-old-boy fell 15 feet down into an enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo on Saturday and was dragged around by a large male gorilla, authorities made the decision to shoot the animal, and now the controversy over the dramatic incident continues as both the zoo and the boy's parents are in the spotlight.
Famed gorilla researcher Jane Goodall sent an email to the zoo offering her condolences over the incident, referring to the gorilla’s death as a “devastating loss to the zoo, and to the gorillas.”
Goodall sent the email Sunday evening to Thane Maynard, the director of the Cincinnati Zoo.
“I feel so sorry for you, having to defend something which you may well disapprove of,” she wrote to Maynard. “I tried to see exactly what was happening - it looked as though the gorilla was putting an arm round the child…”
Maynard, speaking to the media, defended the zoo’s decision.
“The team did a good job,” he said. “And they made a tough choice, and they made the right choice… They saved that little boy’s life.”
Video of the terrifying incident shows the 450-pound gorilla violently dragging the boy through shallow water in the enclosure.
A widely-shared Facebook post by Amanda O’Donoughue, a Fla.-based photographer who describes herself as a former zookeeper, makes a more serious interpretation of the animal’s behavior than Goodall’s note does.
“I have watched this video over again, and with the silverback's postering, and tight lips, it's pretty much the stuff of any keeper's nightmares, and I have had MANY while working with them,” she wrote in a post dated Monday night.
“I keep hearing that the Gorilla was trying to protect the boy,” she added. “I do not find this to be true.”
O’Donoughue argued that tranquilizers wouldn’t have been a good option to sedate the 17-year-old gorilla, and called for a reexamination of the safety of zoo enclosures.
And Jeff Corwin, an animal expert and conservationist, said that parents should stay alert at zoos.
“Zoos aren’t your babysitter,” he told Fox 25. “Take a break from the cellphone and the selfie stick and the texting, connect with your children, be responsible for your children.”
Meanwhile, police have said they are investigating the actions of the boy’s family, but not into the zoo’s safety or its decision to shoot the animal, nicknamed Harambe, the Associated Press reported.
The boy had just minor scrapes and was alert and talking after the incident, the police said.
The United States Department of Agriculture is also looking into the incident.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.