SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - The debate over whether a Cincinnati Zoo gorilla should have been shot is growing, but Monday, zoo directors defended the action.
Animal care directors at Hogle Zoo said the death of the 17-year-old silverback gorilla is devastating, but won’t criticize the zoo’s actions. A person getting into enclosures is something they work hard to prevent.
“We do many drills throughout the year to plan for different types of emergencies and accidents,” said Michele Stancer Hogle Zoo animal care director. “Each incident is always different, you can never compare, but you can certainly practice.”
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden director Thane Maynard said he stands by the decision to kill the gorilla after a boy went into its enclosure Sunday afternoon. He said it was done because of the unpredictable behavior of the 400-pound animal.
“That child’s life was in danger,” Maynard said. “And people who question that, who are our Monday morning quarterbacks or second guessers don’t understand that you can’t take a risk with a silverback.”
Still, many are criticizing the action, an online petition has already received over 250,000 signatures.
“The child’s safety is probably the most important thing,” said Park City resident Robert Beatty. “But I think maybe they should have handled it a little differently, with a tranquilizer gun and not a high powered rifle.”
“That’s insane,” said Hollywood animal trainer KT Hart. “I mean if you know the history of gorillas, unless the gorilla is clinically insane, and I kind of doubt that, it’s generally a person who’s got too much power and doesn’t know how to use it appropriately.”
Others agree with the Cincinnati Zoo’s action to shoot the gorilla for the safety of the child. Stancer said human safety is a top priority for zoo staff, so it’s still difficult do second guess the Cincinnati Zoo’s decision.