Young gorillas are working together to destroy poachers’ traps in Rwanda

Photo: Marian Golovic/Shutterstock

Young gorillas living in the Rwanda National Park have reportedly learned how to foil hunters and poachers, working together to dismantle the traps set for them. While older gorillas are usually powerful enough to free themselves, younger ones aren’t so fortunate. Traps usually work by tying a noose to a branch of bamboo stalk, and bending it to the ground, with another stick or rock holding it in place. When triggered, the noose tightens around the animal, even hoisting it into the air if the animal is light enough.

Gorillas, however, are taking a proactive approach to these traps. A research teamin Rwanda recently found groups of young gorillas actively seeking out and dismantling traps, to prevent their brethren from falling victim. The research team observed one gorilla bending and breaking the tree, while another disabled the noose, repeating the process for multiple traps. The team believes that gorillas have witnessed a correlation between these devices and the deaths of their peers, prompting their desire to neutralize them.

Chris Tyler-Smith, a geneticist at the Sanger Institute in the UK, said that “most of our genes are very similar, or even identical to, the gorilla version of the same gene.” This might help explain how gorillas are able to understand the mechanics of hunter traps, identify them in the wild, and coordinate their efforts to dismantle them. 

Six park rangers killed in ambush in DRC’s famed Virunga gorilla park

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/09/six-park-rangers-killed-ambush-drcs-famed-virunga-gorilla-park/

Five wildlife rangers and a driver guarding one of the world’s most important refuges for mountain gorillas and other critically endangered species have been killed in an ambush.

Authorities in the Virunga National Park, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s famed haven for gorillas, said the men were gunned down by militia men early on Monday near the border with Uganda.

“Virunga National Park is deeply saddened to confirm reports of an attack on our staff today,” the park said in a statement.

The Virunga National Park 
The Virunga National Park  CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

“Five Virunga rangers and a staff driver were killed during an ambush in the Central Sector of the Park. A sixth ranger was also wounded.”

Joel Malembe, a park spokesman, said the team had been driving through the bush between the sectors of Lulimba and Ishasha when a group of militia men opened fire on their vehicles at about 6 AM local time.

Cosma Wilungula, the director of the DRC’s national parks, said the attackers were from one of the country’s “Mai Mai” militia groups, which were initially founded in the 1990s to fight cross-border attacks from Rwanda.

More than 150 rangers have been killed protecting the Virunga national park, which covers an area three times the size of Luxembourg, over the past twenty years.

Virunga was established established in 1925 and describes itself as Africa’s oldest national park.

Covering more than 3000 square miles of wilderness on the Rwandan and Ugandan border, it is one of Africa’s most diverse habitats and is home to about a quarter of the world’s surviving 880 mountain gorillas.

Emmanuel de Merode, the Belgian director of the Virunda national park, was wounded in an ambush in 2014
Emmanuel de Merode, the Belgian director of the Virunda national park, was wounded in an ambush in 2014 CREDIT:  JEROME DELAY,/AP

It is also a refuge for significant populations of eastern lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, okapis, lions, elephants and hippos.

But it has been ravaged by the unrest sweeping Congo’s troubled North Kivu province, with dozens of armed groups preying on the local population and battling for control of rich reserves of timber, gold and other resources.

They also often poach animals in the park for bush meat.

Ranger outposts are regularly attacked and it not unknown for rangers and militias to fight battles with automatic weapons to for several hours. Emmanuel de Merode, the park’s Belgian director, was shot and wounded in a road ambush between the park and Goma, the capital of North Kivu, in 2014.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has seen increasing instability of the past year, after Joseph Kabila, the president, refused to step down at the end of his term in 2016.

Refugees from Tchomia in the Democratic Republic of Congo arrive on boat in Uganda
Refugees from Tchomia in the Democratic Republic of Congo arrive on boat in Uganda CREDIT: JACK TAYLOR/GETTY

Mr Kabila has agreed to fresh elections in January, but the United Nations and aid agencies have warned that escalating violence and lawlessness threatens to spiral out of control.

Violence has escalated in the east of the country in particular since February, raising fears of a return to the horrific civil wars that claimed millions of lives in the region between 1998 and 2008.

A Mai Mai militia was blamed for shooting dead a Catholic priest in North Kivu over the weekend.

The United Nations has said over 5.1 million people have been displaced in recent years and 13 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, putting the scale of the crisis on a par with Syria.

The national government has rejected that description of the situation and has said it will not attend a United Nations pledging conference to raise money to deal with the crisis in Geneva on Friday.

The United Nations has 15,000 peace keepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, making it the largest peace keeping mission in the world.

SMART MOUNTAIN GORILLAS HAVE LEARNED HOW TO DISMANTLE POACHERS’ TRAPS

Smart Mountain Gorillas Have Learned How to Dismantle Poachers’ Traps

Researchers working in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park in 2012 witnessed just how intelligent mountain gorillas are when they observed them dismantling traps laid by poachers.

Only days after a young gorilla died after being caught in one of these snares, two four-year-old gorillas were filmed working together to disassemble similar traps.

“This is absolutely the first time that we’ve seen juveniles doing that … I don’t know of any other reports in the world of juveniles destroying snares,” said Veronica Vecellio, gorilla program coordinator at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s Karisoke Research Center. “We are the largest database and observer of wild gorillas … so I would be very surprised if somebody else has seen that,” Vecellio added.

Rangers patrol the forest daily, removing snares in continued efforts to protect the critically endangered mountain gorillas. It was on a routine patrol in 2012 that tracker John Ndayambaje saw two juvenile gorillas: a male named Dukore and a female named Rwema, rapidly destroy two traps.

“Young Dukore and Rwema, as well as Tetero with a black back, ran to the trap and destroyed together the branches used to hold the rope,” said Vecillio. “They saw another trap nearby and, as quickly as before, they destroyed the second branch and pulled the rope to the ground. They were very confident. They saw what they had to do, they did it, and then they left.”

Snares are a common occurrence in the national park, home of the mountain gorillas, and although they are intended to catch antelope and smaller species, they can also ensnare the great apes. Adult gorillas can generally free themselves, but a younger animal may not be so lucky, as seen in the case of an infant named Ngwino who died from injuries after being caught in such a snare – she had dislocated her shoulder trying to escape and developed gangrene from open wounds where the rope cut into her leg.

The gorillas observed on this occasion are a subspecies of the eastern gorilla: Gorilla beringei beringei. There are only an estimated 680 mountain gorillas left in the wild, in two separate small populations, so every life is precious.

How Dare They Bite Back! Humanity’s Illogical Rage When the Beast Bites Back

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

A two-year old boy is grabbed by an alligator and dragged into a Floridian swamp and killed.

The response is murderous retribution towards every alligator found in the vicinity. So far five alligators have been killed despite failing to identify the alligator involved.

A nine-year old boy falls into a gorilla enclosure at a zoo. The gorilla does not injure the boy yet is killed nonetheless as a precaution.

A grizzly bear kills a hunter and is in turn hunted down and slain for its “crime.”

A spearfishing woman is killed by a shark and the Western Australian government immediately initiates a policy of extermination of an endangered shark species.

In a world dominated by humanity, animals are enslaved, slaughtered, tortured, abused and treated like expendable material property without consideration that they are living self aware sentient beings.

Their lives have no intrinsic value outside of the value we decide to place on them.

Humans refuse to acknowledge intelligence or emotions in animals yet we perveresly hold animals directly responsible for their actions.

The killing of a two-year old boy is a sad tragedy in human eyes of course,10917819_10205697179298480_7313359493599094694_n but what does a vendetta against alligators accomplish? The child is sadly dead. The alligator simply did what alligators do. Killing five alligators or more in retaliation is an illogical and murderous expression of outrage at the fact that a non-human did not acknowledge the “superiority” of humanity.

We humans have fashioned ourselves as special and extraordinary, better than all other animals, endowed with unlimited privilege and entitlement.

As humans we have defined ourselves as the “master species” and to most animals, all humans are Nazis.

We slaughter 65 billion domestic animals each year and many more billions of fish, we massacre tens of millions of wild animals, torture millions of animals in labs, enslave millions more in cages and tanks, lay waste to thousands of square miles of life supporting habitats, yet when one of us is killed, and usually because of our own stupidity, we become irrationally and violently outraged.

In the minds of the majority of human beings, animals have no rights that any human being is obligated to respect. We own them, we dominate them and we hold total, ruthless and lethal dominion over them and as such we are under no obligation to acknowledge that they feel pain, that they suffer, that they have emotions, that they can think and reason, dream and are self aware sentient beings. We simply deny all these things to justify our anthropocentric dominance.

Being killed by an alligator, a shark or a bear is no different than being struck by lightning, drowning in the surf or having a coconut fall fatally upon your head. These tragic things happen but for some irrational reason when the cause of the incident is a sentient being, we are enraged and we demand retribution. We don’t chop down the coconut tree, but we do slay the shark.

We have made the rules that the animals must abide by even if they are unable to understand the rules.

What we are saying is that animals have no rights that we need to respect but animals are obligated to respect human lives and property even as we acknowledge they possess absolutely no moral or ethical basis for such an acknowledgement.

How many babies are snatched by alligators, how many people are killed by sharks how many people are slain by bears? Not many, and in the case of gorillas, not even a single human has died.

Humans on the other hand slay millions of other humans. Millions more die in accidents involving cars, planes, boats and other human made objects. More hunters are killed by other hunters than by wild animals.

Yes some innocent people are indeed killed by animals, it happens, but tens of millions of innocent animals are slaughtered by humans.

Sharks kill an average of seven people every year despite the fact that some two hundred million people enter the sea each and every day. If sharks were intentionally killing humans, the numbers would be in the thousands. Shark kills are rare and accidental yet humans kill over seventy million sharks every year. That’s the equivalent of exterminating the entire population of France in one year.

And many human victims of attacks by animals are also not always innocent. A hunter killed by an elephant or a lion, a bear or a wild boar cannot be described as an innocent. Nor can a matador, a spear fisherman or even an Orca trainer.

Despite this, the human response is an indictment of the animal in virtually every case, be it a matador or a child, and that indicates a special kind of illogical rage. The response is always equal no matter if the victim is innocent or guilty, if the attack was provoked or unprovoked. The human is always in the right, the animal is always in the wrong and that is because in every case the animal is considered an inferior to any human for any reason no matter the circumstances.

At the same time humans do grant special dispensation to some animals. People have an aversion to seeing a dog being killed in a movie but there is very little effective protests to stop the hundreds of dogs being boiled and spit roasted alive at the Yulan dog meat festival this month. We love our horses until they break a leg, after which we put a bullet in their head. We pet our cats and dogs as we eat cows and pigs and get arrogantly defensive if anyone points out the contradiction.

When humans are killed by humans we make the distinction between those we consider to be “bad” humans being killed and the “good” humans doing the killing. One side simply dehumanizes the other side to justify the killing.

This is made all the more easier with animals who are dehumanized by reason that they are not human already.

All of this is irrational behavior that defies logic.

How many more alligators must we kill in Florida before we feel justifiably revenged?

How many more sharks must be massacred until we achieve retribution?

How long will it be before we can replace primitive, vengeful retribution with a logical, rational and compassionate understanding of the relationship between humans and other species.

How long will it take before we can honestly describe ourselves as “mankind?”

 

 

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If Gorilla’s Death Moves You, Consider Other Animals’ Plights

http://www.npr.org/2016/06/04/480671964/if-gorillas-death-moves-you-consider-other-animals-plights

Zoo visitors look at protesters and mourners from a walk bridge during a vigil for the gorilla Harambe outside the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. John Minchillo/AP hide caption

toggle caption John Minchillo/AP

Zoo visitors look at protesters and mourners from a walk bridge during a vigil for the gorilla Harambe outside the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

Zoo visitors look at protesters and mourners from a walk bridge during a vigil for the gorilla Harambe outside the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

John Minchillo/AP

The shooting death of Harambe, the 17-year-old western lowland gorilla, after a 3-year-old boy fell into his cage at the Cincinnati Zoo, is a tragedy in all ways.

Harambe delighted zoogoers, and may have meant the boy no harm.

The little boy’s parents say they are grateful their son survived and is doing well. But many people on social media platforms have attacked the mother as neglectful.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society, said on his blog that the debate over how Harambe died reminds him of old dorm room discussions where people would pose imaginary questions that weighed the life of an animal against a human being’s.

But if some of the people who snarl at the boy’s parents on social media want to do something more for animals, they may need to look no further than their own dinner.

We have heard a lot in recent years about the 8.5 billion chickens that are slaughtered for food in the United States every year. The ones that live on factory farms are kept in cages about as large as a sheet of copy paper. Their feet never touch the ground. They never see the sun or sky. They never play or mate. Their beaks are often snipped or burned off to keep them from pecking each other to death in those cramped, congested cages.

Harambe’s death might also remind us how more than 100 million pigs are raised for food in the United States. The ASPCA points out that pigs, who are known to be as intelligent as dogs, are one of the few animals Americans both keep as pets and raise for food.

Most pigs are kept in windowless sheds on factory farms, in cages so small they cannot turn around; so they will grow fat. They live in their own manure, and the air is so heavy with ammonia that many pigs develop lesions on their lungs.

Female breeding pigs are put into what are called gestation crates, where they are artificially inseminated. They give birth, then are inseminated time and time again; and when they can longer get pregnant, they’re slaughtered.

We could go on. But it is not necessary to become a vegetarian to change what we eat to consume fewer animals, which is probably healthier anyway.

What happened to Harambe was a catastrophe, but one so rare as to be almost unprecedented. The treatment of so many millions of animals raised for food can be just business as usual.

L.A. Times Op/Ed: Harambe the gorilla dies, meat-eaters grieve

Harambe the gorilla
Peter Singer and Karen Dawn

Last weekend at the Cincinnati Zoo, a child got curious and a gorilla got shot. The 4-year-old boy crawled past a barricade and fell into a moat surrounding the enclosure housing Harambe, whose 17th birthday had been celebrated the day before. In the 10 minutes the two spent together, Harambe showed no intention of harming the boy…

Zoo officials chose to shoot Harambe as the only way to guarantee the child’s safety.

Full Story: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-singer-dawn-harambe-death-zoo-20160605-snap-story.html

 

Toledo paper calls for boycott of Cincinnati, firing of zoo official

http://www.journal-news.com/news/news/toledo-paper-calls-for-boycott-of-cincinnati-firin/nrYqf/

By News Staff
An editorial from an Ohio newspaper today calls for the firing of the head of the Cincinnati Zoo after the death of an endangered gorilla.

An editorial in the Toledo Blade blasts Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard, saying his public statements that he made the right call to shoot the gorilla because of the possibility of it harming a 3-year-old boy who climbed into the exhibit warrant his firing.

Excerpts from the editorial state:

“Experts say that the animal would have beaten its breast and approached the child peripherally had he meant him harm.

But the zoo decided to shoot and kill the gorilla.

Zoo officials should not have done that. They misjudged the animal’s actions. Moreover, zoo and law enforcement officials could have used a tranquilizer dart, which, if employed properly, would have put the animal down quickly. The tranquilizer and someone who knew how to shoot the dart, and in the proper dosage, should have been readily available.

The zoo director, Thane Maynard, says he would do the same thing if he had it to do over again. And for that, above all else, he should be fired.”

The editorial goes on to say that Toledoans should boycott the Cincinnati Zoo and all things Cincinnati — “even its poorly performing baseball team.”

Why Was Harambe the Gorilla in a Zoo in the First Place?

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/why-was-harambe-the-gorilla-in-a-zoo-in-the-first-place/

Amid the debate over who was at fault in the death of a beloved animal, we need to step back and ask a different question

Unidentified male western lowland gorilla, Cincinnati Zoo Credit: By Mark Dumont via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license
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Harambe, a 17-year-old male western lowland gorilla, was killed at the Cincinnati Zoo to save the life of a four-year-old child who fell into his cage. Opinions vary as to whether the boy was really in danger and who was to blame, the zoo (why was the boy able to get into the enclosure and why wasn’t Harambe tranquilized?) his mother, or both? Playing the blame game will not bring Harambe back and for me the real question, while also considering why Harambe was killed, is “Why was Harambe in the zoo in the first place?”

As I watched footage of the event I was reminded of an incident that happened in 1996 at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo in which a female western lowland gorilla named Binta Jua rescued a three-year-old boy who fell into her enclosure. She became a worldwide celebrity. I also thought about the movie King Kong.

People worldwide are outraged by Harambe’s death. This global interest is all part of a heightened awareness about the nature of human-animal relationships, the focus of a rapidly growing field called anthrozoology. People are keenly interested in how and why nonhuman animals – animals – are used by humans in a wide variety of venues, in this case “in the name of human entertainment.”

Harambe was in the zoo because he was captive born, and breeding animals who are going to live out the rest of their lives in cages raises numerous issues. However, that is precisely why Harambe was living in the Cincinnati Zoo. Being a zoo-ed animal, Harmabe lost all of his freedoms – the freedoms to make choices about how he was to live, what he would eat, when he would sleep and go to the bathroom, where he would roam, and if he were to become a father. While some might say Harmabe had a “good life” in the zoo, it doesn’t come close to the life he would have had as a wild gorilla, with all its attendant risks. Indeed, one might argue that the animal people were seeing was not really a true western lowland gorilla, surely not an ambassador for his species.

Harambe’s cage also was his home where he felt safe. When the boy fell into his home it was a trespass of sorts, and it’s most likely Harambe was startled, perhaps feeling vulnerable and unprotected, and wondering what was going on. Let’s not forget that gorillas and many other animals are highly intelligent and emotional beings and they deeply care about what happens to themselves, their families and their friends. In this case Harambe did what was expected, he picked up the boy, but he didn’t harm him. Of course Harambe could have killed the boy in a heartbeat, but he didn’t.

An analysis of Harmabe’s behavior published in another essay I wrote indicates that he was doing what one would expect a western lowland gorilla to do with a youngster. Harmabe’s hold on the child and his sheltering of the youngster are indicators of protection. He didn’t seem to be afraid. He examined the boy but also was attentive to the reaction of the crowd who saw what happened and the communication between the child’s mother and her son.

Along these lines, it’s essential that the people who work with zoo-ed animals know their behavior in detail, and those people who know individuals the best—the caretakers who interact with certain individuals daily—be called in in emergency situations. Each animal has a unique personality and this knowledge could be put to use to avoid what happened to Harambe.

For people who want to know more about what was going on in Harmabe’s head and heart, think about your companion dog, for example. How do they respond when someone trespasses into where they feel safe? I like to ask people to use their companion animals to close the empathy gap because people get incredibly upset when a dog is harmed because they see dogs as sentient, feeling beings. So too, was Harambe.

So, would you allow your dog to be put in a zoo? If not, then why Harambe and millions of other individuals who languish behind bars?

It’s not happening at the zoo

Captive breeding by zoos to produce individuals who are going to live out their lives in cages, in the name of entertainment and possibly in the name of education and conservation, raises many challenging questions. Did people who saw Harambe learn anything about what the life of a male western lowland gorilla is really like? No, they didn’t. Did they learn something about these fascinating animals that would help Harambe or his wild relatives? Clearly, nothing learned would help Harambe as he was forced to live in his cage; a large enclosure is still a cage. Harambe was not going to be put out in the wild and introduced to other gorillas.

Did people learn something about these gorillas that would help wild relatives? Once again, likely not. While some might argue that learning about Harambe is good for conserving his species, and while many of us know someone who went to a zoo and said they learned something new about a given species, there’s no hard evidence that these people then go on to do something for the good of the species.  Indeed, a recent study conducted by zoos themselves, showed that what people learn is very limited in scope in terms of what the new knowledge means in any practical sense. While a very small percentage of people learn that maintaining biodiversity is important, they don’t learn about the need for biodiversity conservation.

Where do we go from here?

Harambe is dead and the boy is alive. I’m very sad, and also very happy. A gorilla’s life was traded off because a human child was in danger. What needs to be done in the future to be sure that events like this never happen again? First, zoos need to stop breeding animals who are going to live in zoos for the rest of their lives. Zoos also should be turned into sanctuaries for the animals themselves. Over time there will be fewer and fewer captive animals and zoos as we know them can be phased out. And, the money that is saved as time goes on can be used to preserve populations of wild animals and their homes. These sorts of changes will take time and we need to be very patient, but we need to move in this direction.

As we move on, the choices we make should emphasize preservation of wild animals and critical habitats, and we need to move away from captive breeding and the zoo mentality of keeping animals locked in cages for our entertainment—and supposedly for their own and their species’ good.

We humans are constantly making decisions about who lives and who dies, and we need to focus our attention on the animals themselves, and put their lives first and foremost. The rapidly growing international field called compassionate conservation comes into play here. The guiding principles of compassionate conservation are “First do no harm” and “the lives of all individuals matter.”

Turning a moment into a movement

I hope Harambe did not die in vain, and that this moment can be turned into a movement that is concerned with the plight of captive animals. Judging by what is sailing into my email inbox each minute and by worldwide media coverage, it already is. The publicity generated by killing Harambe can and must be used to save the lives of numerous other captive animals. We must face the difficult questions that arise because animals are “in” and the questions are not going to disappear.

Criminal charges possible in killing of Cincinnati gorilla

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/criminal-charges-possible-in-killing-of-cincinnati-gorilla/ar-BBtH9Uc?ocid=spartandhp

Reuters
By Ginny McCabe2 hrs ago

  • USA TODAY

    Free

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 change.org 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)