Father of gorilla killed at Cincinnati Zoo was first gorilla born at Zoo Miami
Harambe, 17, shot Saturday after 4-year-old boy fell into his enclosure
MIAMI – The father of a 17-year-old gorilla who was killed Saturday at the Cincinnati Zoo was the first gorilla born at Zoo Miami, said Ron Magill, Zoo Miami's communications director.
Zoo officials in Cincinnati said the 450 pound gorilla, named Harambe, was shot and killed by staff Saturday afternoon after a 4-year-old boy fell into his enclosure.
Magill said Josephine, a 49-year-old gorilla who still lives at Zoo Miami, gave birth to Harambe's father, Moja, in 1984. Moja was eventually moved to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, where he fathered Harambe.
Wildlife experts, including Magill, have defended the zoo's decision to shoot Harambe in order to protect the life of the child.
"The professional staff at the zoo made the correct decision to shoot the animal and remove the threat to the child as soon as possible," Magill said in a statement on his Facebook page. "Correct, but by no means easy. This gorilla was part of their family and to have to destroy it destroyed a part of all of them. They are beyond devastated."
While many people have been outraged about the killing of Harambe and have suggested that zookeepers could have used a tranquilizer on the gorilla, Magill stressed that shooting the gorilla with a tranquilizer dart could have further agitated Harambe before the tranquilizer took effect.
"Please understand that to shoot a tranquilizer dart into an already agitated gorilla could not only take longer to have an effect, it would most likely further agitate the gorilla, which could lead to displaced aggression against the child," Magill said. "Though I don't believe that this gorilla meant to harm the child, the bottom line is that the gorilla was agitated, frightened, and highly stressed by the crying child and the screaming public."
A witness told ABC News that Harambe seemed to be protecting the boy, who ultimately survived the encounter.
"The little boy, once he fell, I don't think the gorilla even knew that he was in there until he heard him splashing in the water," witness Brittany Nicely told ABC News on Sunday.
While the gorilla's intentions will never be known, Magill said employees at the zoo made "the only responsible decision that could be made."
"He was not conscience of his own strength, and if you observed how he flung that child through the water (trying to escape the panic), you can understand that all it would take is for that child to hit his head against the concrete wall or cast iron gate while being flung like that to cause a serious or even fatal injury," Magill said.
Magill said the incident should be a reminder to all parents to watch their children at all times, as taking their eyes off of them for even a few moments can lead to tragedy.
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