A day at the Cincinnati Zoo turned deadly on Saturday when a 3-year-old boy fell into a gorilla enclosure.
He encountered Western Lowland Gorilla Harambe, causing zoo officials to shoot the gorilla dead in what they deemed an action necessary to save the child’s life. In a statement, animal rights group PETA said, “This tragedy is exactly why PETA urges families to stay away from any facility that displays animals as slideshows for humans to gawk at.”
Harambe’s killing was met with a strong public reaction, with some people blaming the parents and others blaming the zoo. A video taken of the incident shows the gorilla holding hands with the child, but also tugging at the child. During another part of the video, the 450-pound gorilla stood over the boy.
During a press conference Monday, Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard said, “You can’t take a risk with a silverback gorilla. We’re talking about an animal that with one hand can take a coconut and crush it. We stand by our decision.”
A vigil service took place on Monday and people brought flowers to the zoo site. Anthony Seta, a Cincinnati animal rights activist, said the purpose of the vigil was to be a tribute to Harambe, who turned 17 the day before he was shot.
“People can shout at the parents and people can shout at the zoo,” Seta said. “The fact is that a gorilla that just celebrated his birthday has been killed.”