( 4UMF NEWS ) Toddler Falls Into Gorilla Cage At Zoo:
A 4-year-old boy was lucky to be alive Saturday after falling into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo in a horrifying incident that ended with the 400-pound primate being shot dead.
The unidentified child crawled through a barrier and fell roughly 12 feet into the gorilla cage about 4 p.m., officials said.
A hulking 17-year-old male gorilla named Harambe grabbed the child and carried him into a moat. “It seemed very much by our professional team…to be a life-threatening situation,” Cincinnati Zoo President Thane Maynard said in an afternoon press conference.
The ape was dragging around the boy for about 10 minutes before the zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team moved in and shot the endangered primate.
“It’s a sad day all around,” Maynard said. “They made a tough choice and they made the right choice. Because they saved that little boy’s life. It could have been very bad.”
Maynard acknowledged that the gorilla wasn’t attacking the child but “all sorts of things could happen in a situation like that.”
The child was swiftly plucked out of the primate pen and rushed to an area hospital. He was initially reported to be in serious condition with non-life-threatening injuries.
A video shot by a witness shows the gorilla standing over the boy in the enclosure’s moat as a woman is heard screaming, “Mommy’s right here,” and “Mommy loves you.”
The gorilla is seen nudging the boy and lifting him up at one point. The clip, obtained by Fox affiliate WLWT, shows no aggressive behavior by the gorilla.
But the station reported that it removed the most graphic portion of the video when the ape drags the boy through the water.
Witness Kim O’Connor said she overheard the child talking about entering the enclosure before he fell in. His mother was at the time tending to several other young children.
“The little boy himself had already been talking about wanting to…get in the water. The mother’s like, ‘No, you’re not, no, you’re not,’” O’Connor said.
The incident marked the first time the zoo’s response team had killed an animal in a life-threatening emergency, Maynard said.
Maynard said the team decided against firing tranquilizer darts because it could take several minutes to incapacitate such a large “agitated” animal.
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“The decision was not made lightly,” Maynard said. “Lowland gorillas are very endangered animals. There aren’t many in captivity. But it has the proper ending.”
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