The decision by Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, U.S. to shoot down a 180kg gorilla named Harambe just one day after his 17th birthday has sparked a massive public outcry
On Saturday, 28 May, the Cincinnati Zoo shot and killed Harambe, a western lowland gorilla after a 3-year-old boy slipped into the animal's enclosure and before was dragged by Harambe in the water for about 10 minutes.
The boy went under a rail, through wires and over a moat wall to get into the enclosure, according to the zoo. Footage shot by a witness shows Harambe dragging the child through the water as the clamour of the crowd grows louder.
Zookeepers shot the 180kg gorilla with a rifle, rather than tranquilising him.
The brief encounter sparked widespread Internet outrage over the decision to shoot Harambe and whether the child's parents were to blame for failing to look after him.
The incident became controversial when a witness claimed that Harambe appeared to be "protecting" the child before it was shot by the zoo officials, suggesting that it was harmless
"I don't know if the screaming did it or too many people hanging on the edge, if he thought we were coming in, but then he pulled the boy down away further from the big group," Kim O'Connor, who shot the video, told NBC station WLWT.
According to a video recorded by a visitor, Harambe, a Western lowland silverback gorilla, nudged the boy toward him before tugging on the back of his pants.
In another video, the gorilla stands over the boy on all fours as onlookers shout in the background.
Many believe that the parents should be held responsible for not looking after their child properly, saying that Harambe suffered a "senseless" death due to their negligence
However, Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard has defended the decision to shoot and kill Harambe. He also offered an explanation on why they did not use a tranquiliser.
"The idea of waiting and shooting it with a hypodermic was not a good idea," Maynard said at a press conference on Monday, 30 May.
"That would have definitely created alarm in the male gorilla. When you dart an animal, anesthetic doesn’t work in one second, it works over a period of a few minutes to 10 minutes. The risk was due to the power of that animal."
"That child's life was in danger. People who question that don't understand you can't take a risk with a silverback gorilla -- this is a dangerous animal," he was quoted as saying by CNN.
"Looking back, we'd make the same decision. The child is safe."
Global protests against the parents and zoo have been growing ever since the incident was reported by various international media such as CNN, BBC and The Independent
More than 246,000 people have signed an online petition that is calling for the boy's parents to "be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life".
Another petition was also created following the tragic incident. The petition is seeking for the enactment of a law that will result in "legal consequences when an endangered animal is harmed or killed due to the negligence of visitors". More than 85,000 have signed this petition.