In a tragic incident at Cincinnati in the United States, a silverback gorilla had to be killed after a four-year-old boy slipped through the barrier of its enclosure and fell into the moat. The death of the gorilla, named Harambe, has sparked a debate on man-animal conflict and safety measures for animals kept in captivity.
According to a report in the New York Times, the zoo took the decision to shoot the animal dead as a tranquiliser would have taken several minutes to neutralise him, which would have been that much more risky for the child.
The boy sat still in the water, looking up at the gorilla as the animal touched the child's hand and back. At one point, it looked as though the gorilla helped the youngster stand up.
Two witnesses said they thought the gorilla was trying to protect the boy at first before getting spooked by the screams of onlookers. The animal then picked the child up out of the moat and dragged him to another spot inside the exhibit, zoo officials said.
The child, whose name was not released, was released from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center on Saturday night, hours after the fall.
His family said in a statement on Sunday that the boy was home and doing fine.
"We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff. We know that this was a very difficult decision for them, and that they are grieving the loss of their gorilla," the family said.
The gorilla was said to be a critically endangered species.
However, the gorilla's death has sparked a debate on accountability for incidents where animals are injured or killed because of human negligence. A petition on change.org has called for a 'Harambe's Law,' which would provide for legal consequences 'when an endangered animal is harmed or killed due to the negligence of visitors.' The petition further says, "No one wants to see any harm come to a human visiting the zoo, but this entire tragedy could have been avoided, had this little boy been properly supervised."
However, some eyewitnesses have refuted the allegations of negligence on the part of the mother of the child. The New York Times article quotes an eyewitness as saying that the woman was with three other kids, and had a baby in her arms. She was reported to have said that the incident happened in 'literally the blink of an eye.'
The death of the animal sparked off a debate on social media, with some contending that it was an instance of negligent parenting and some questioning the manner of keeping animals in captivity.
gorilla: um yes a human has broken into my house?
humans: ok sir stay calm we're on our way to murder you
— Hippo (@InternetHippo) May 30, 2016
It saddens me to no end that a gorilla had to be put down because of an irresponsible parent. However you look at it, that's just sad.
— Katee Sackhoff (@kateesackhoff) May 30, 2016
Why will you kill a harmless17 year old gorilla in a zoo just to save a kid who fell into the moat because his parents were careless.?
— Pritish Nandy (@PritishNandy) May 30, 2016
With a online petition and a heated public debate on fixing responsibility for the incident, it seems that Harambe's death has sparked a wider debate on animal rights.
With inputs from AP
Published Date: May 30, 2016 12:27 PM | Updated Date: May 30, 2016 12:29 PM