Criminal charges possible in killing of Cincinnati gorilla

By Ginny McCabe2 hrs ago



CINCINNATI, May 31 (Reuters) – Police may bring criminal charges over a Cincinnati Zoo incident in which a gorilla was killed to rescue a 4-year-old boy who had fallen into its enclosure, a prosecutor said on Tuesday.

The death of Harambe, a 450-pound (200-kg) gorilla, also prompted the animal rights group Stop Animal Exploitation Now to file a negligence complaint on Tuesday against the zoo with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The group is seeking the maximum penalty of $10,000.

The group said in its complaint letter that the child’s ability to get past the barrier was proof the zoo was negligent and should be fined for a “clear and fatal violation of the Animal Welfare Act.”

Mounting outrage over Saturday’s killing of the Western lowland silverback, an endangered species, sparked criticism of both the zoo and the child’s parents. Online petitions at drew more than 500,000 signatures demanding “Justice for Harambe.”

Cleveland Police are taking a second look at possible criminal charges in the incident after initially saying no one was charged. There was no indication of whether the investigation would focus on the zoo or the child’s parents.

“Once their investigation is concluded, they will confer with our office on possible criminal charges,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters said in a statement.

Witnesses said the child had expressed a desire to get into the enclosure and climbed over a 3-foot (1-meter) barrier, falling 15 feet (4.6 m) into a moat. Zookeepers took down the 17-year-old ape after he violently dragged and tossed the child, officials said.

A child touches the head of a gorilla statue where flowers have been placed outside the Gorilla World exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Sunday, May 29, 2016, in Cincinnati. On Saturday, a special zoo response team shot and killed Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla, that grabbed and dragged a 4-year-old boy who fell into the gorilla exhibit moat. Authorities said the boy is expected to recover. He was taken to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)© The Associated Press A child touches the head of a gorilla statue where flowers have been placed outside the Gorilla World exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Sunday, May 29, 2016, in… The boy’s mother said on Facebook that the boy suffered a concussion and scrapes but was otherwise fine.

Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, on Monday stood by the decision to shoot Harambe, saying he was not simply endangering the child but actually hurting him.

Zoo officials were not immediately available for comment on either the negligence complaint or the police investigation but said on Monday the exhibit was safe and exceeded required protocols.

The Gorilla World exhibit has been closed since the incident and will reopen on Saturday.

Looking at the incident through Harambe’s eyes, his former caretaker, Jerry Stones, said in a CNN interview that the breach of his habitat was likely confusing.

“Here is this animal that has this strange thing in his house,” Stones said on CNN. “He knew what adult people were but he’d never been around children. It smells similar, it looks similar but ‘What is it? Do I play with it? Am I supposed to be afraid of it? What do I do?'”

Even Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump jumped into the fray at a news conference, saying, “The way he held that child, it was almost like a mother holding a baby … It was so beautiful to watch that powerful, almost 500-pound gorilla, the way he dealt with that little boy. But it just takes one second … one little flick of his finger.”

In the wild, adult male silverbacks such as Harambe are leaders of groups of gorillas known as troops. They develop the silver patch on their coats as they mature. (Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg and Gina Cherelus; Editing by Bill Trott)

21 thoughts on “Criminal charges possible in killing of Cincinnati gorilla

  1. I am so heartbroken by this. It’s heartbreaking to think that Harambe possibly meant no harm, but had to be killed because of a lack of planning, no foresight, inadequate barriers, no crowd controls, and God knows what kind of protocols, the zoo was unprepared for this accident, and had to resort to killing the poor gorilla. It is the zoo’s responsibility to care for the animals, and keep the visitors out of the exhibits for their own safety and that of the precious animals, especially critically endangered ones that they assure the public is their reason for being (but we know it’s the almighty dollar). The comments I read are so awful, if the last gorilla on Earth had to be shot they wouldn’t care at all.

    Here’s Jane Goodall’s take on it, she’s about the only expert I have any faith in:

  2. So a 3-year-old boy propelled himself into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, and a magnificent silverback gorilla had to be shot. While some have suggested that the child’s entering the enclosure and the gorilla’s death were just unfortunate events, we owe it to Harambe to prove if there was carelessness and, if so, to make sure there are also consequences. Some witnesses point to the role of the mother who was at the zoo with three small children and a baby.

    “Accidents happen,” so explains the mother of the child who fell into the gorilla’s enclosure. That is a pretty cavalier and flip statement! Accidents can especially happen when people aren’t paying attention. The zoo says that the barriers around the enclosure had never been breached in the 38 years of the zoo’s history, and the USDA can look into that. However for a 3-year-old to get through the barriers must have taken more than a few seconds. What was Mom doing during that time? Witnesses heard the child say he wanted to get into the enclosure and its pond and Mom said “no” (accidents also happen when children disobey their parents), but the boy managed to get away and tumble into the water. After the child was rescued and later discharged from the hospital, Mom expressed gratitude to God for protecting her son. Well, why didn’t God protect him by preventing him from falling into the enclosure in the first place? That would have also protected Harambe from being shot. Guess God wasn’t paying attention either. Mom also didn’t mention the tragic result of the accident or apologize for any part she just might have played. Sadly, that result was Harambe’s loss of life. The child can go on having whatever accidents lie in his future, but Harambe is gone from this earth forever.

    People may complain about Internet shaming and blaming of either the mother or the zoo, but it has gotten attention now for Harambe, just as it provided some justice for Cecil by plaguing Dr. Walter Palmer for months for what he did to Cecil. Maybe discovering negligence in the child’s mother, along with possible consequences and the publicity, will warn future zoo visitors that causing harm to it’s residents will not be tolerated. If the animals in their zoo captivity can be spared abuse and if their lives can be saved, then that will be a Harambe’s legacy.

    • The Cincinnati zookeeper may be technically correct that their gorilla enclosure has never been breached, but Born Free USA has documented numerous other incidents with captive animals at that zoo. I will not let the zookeeper off the hook by shifting blame to the mother of the injured child.

      • Exactly! Totally unprepared for this accident, and they think they can close the page on it and have it be business as usual? I thought I read they were going to open the gorilla exhibit the next day, until I guess they realized it was bad PR. That poor animal meant nothing to them.

    • Yes, totally agree.

      I guess for some people – God is for humans only. Humans own the planet, the skies, the oceans, and are ruining everything without giving back, for the most part. They are not getting all of my empathy – I have reserved a great deal of it for the non-humans and wilderness.

      • Yes! Every time something like this happens, the experts rush to ensure us that human lives are paramount and must be saved at all costs, which means one thing–the animals die. They always roll out Jack Hanna (just as they did for all the dead animals at Zanesville) to ensure us that no nonhumans will be allowed to endangered human beings.

  3. The media has been awful about this too – I just read something caling it a ‘blameless situation’. That’s what we call everything humans do nowadays. This kind of attitude will ensure that nothing gets done about the situation, and it will happen again and again, as we can see repeatedly. The zoo keeps referring to ‘no breaches in 38 years’. Well, their winning streak is over. Just because they comply with the minimum standards doesn’t mean they can’t go above those standards. And ultimately, zoos need to become a relic of the past. Sanctuaries and protection of habitat is the modern way, except that humans want all the habitat for themselves.

    Those ‘wishing you peace, love and thanks for all you do at your wonderful zoo’ is what I call happy horseshit because it is not reality. You really want to knock on the door and see if anybody is home upstairs. What it really means is ‘shut up about it you environuts, and let’s just move on, ‘k? I swear to God, if the last gorilla on earth had to be shot for some overriding human reason, it would be extinction gorillas. It’s going to be an awful world with nothing but humans on it.

    • The blame belongs squarely on this zoo for having inadequate protections. We’ll see when the truth comes out just how perfect things have been over those 38 years. If you read any of the Trip Advisor summation, there are quite a few comments that mention that the place needs an upgrade and is a little down at the heels, it sounds like.

      • Maybe people with three little kids and a baby won’t be able control all the kids either. A zoo manager from Florida was on saying that a zoo’s main responsibility was to ensure the safety of visitors. When questioned about securing all enclosures, he then stated that they could never be fool-proof if people were really determined to get in. Considering the amount of fools out there, that is an admission failure is inevitable.

        There is a constant drumbeat of the need for responsibility and accountability. So the zoo claims it isn’t responsible, and the mother says it was just an accident. But there was, in fact, accountability–Harambe paid with his life.

  4. I’m a little disturbed by what I see as a ‘reverse shaming’ going on by the media – are we not allowed to feel grief for the loss of this poor gorilla, who in the human world is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t, and only for a human child? How dare anyone challenge mom and apple pie in this country!

    • That is exactly what I was thinking. It.seems as if concern for animals and demanding justice for them is a matter of political correctness. It’s an extreme speciesism that seem to fear any threat to human supremacy and demands the continued use of animals as resources and property. These people have no empathy or room in their hearts for the Harambe’s or Cecil’s or the stray cats or the poor souls on the transport trucks. I wrote a comment on Harambe in one article, and some guy told me I must like animals better than people. I told him that was the best idea I ever heard.

      • I’ve read – ‘this (humanity) is your tribe!’ Like we must be automatically opposed to any other creature. Well, primates are our cousins too.

        The country is regressing. 20! years ago a gorilla gently saved a child in a similar incident. Today, I don’t know whether she would have been shot, preemptively, as was done in Cincinnati. Something is terribly wrong – guns guns and more guns, killings daily. I’m praying that with a new regime, things will get better.

      • I had to laugh. If Donald Trump becomes President, Canada (Cape Breton Island) has put out an open invitation for immigration. My grandparents emigrated to the US in the early 1900s, 1911 I think, I’m going to check if I have dual citizenship! 🙂

  5. Nothing short of an abomination! Yes charges should be pressed–the mother of this kid who caused this uproar and turmoil was not doing her job as a responsible parent and look at this outcome!! Never before have I heard of this happening! This is an absolute damn shame and an event that should not have happened and which could have been prevented!!

    • edit: *Aside from the related story of a man who stripped naked in an apparent suicide attempt and jumped into a lion’s enclosure in a Chilean zoo — this too is a damn shame there is just no excuse. We can never let our guard down anywhere whatever it may be!! We must do our due diligence and give our absolute best in protecting animals who depend on us for their care and ultimately, their life.

  6. Pingback: Criminal charges possible in killing of Cincinnati gorilla – Making Waves Outreach

  7. Marc Bekoff has an excellent article in Scientific American about Harambe: “Why Was Harambe The Gorilla In The Zoo In The First Place.”…3794.19583.0.19714.….0…1c.1.64.hp..0.25.1878.0..0j35i39j0i131j0i3j0i67j0i20j0i46i67j46i67j0i10j0i10i46j46i10j0i22i30j33i21.CDGn6Flpuks

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