Zoo director: We stand by our decision

Zoo stands by decision to kill gorilla (VIDEO)
Harambe, the 17-year-old Western Lowland Gorilla. (YouTube/CincinnatiZoo)
Harambe, the 17-year-old Western Lowland Gorilla. (YouTube/CincinnatiZoo)
(FOX19 NOW/Frankie Jupiter)
(FOX19 NOW/Frankie Jupiter)
(FOX19 NOW/Frankie Jupiter)
(FOX19 NOW/Frankie Jupiter)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard held a press conference Monday to answer further questions regarding the incident Saturday that led to the death of a critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla.

A 3-year-old boy climbed over the barrier, through the bushes and fell into the moat within the animal's enclosure. The boy fell 15 feet and landed in a foot and a half of water.

"The trouble with barriers is that people can get past them," Maynard said. It's a barrier that has been in place for 38 years.

Maynard said the two female gorillas in the exhibit were recalled immediately, but the third, a male, remained in the yard with the child.

"The gorilla was clearly agitated and clearly disoriented," stated Maynard.

Video surfaced showing the moments before the boy was taken up the ladder and onto the platform within the exhibit. Zoo officials said they are not aware of any other recordings.

The police were present at the time of the incident and no citations were written. The Zoo Director said everyone knows they saved that little boy's life.

"I am not one to point fingers," said Maynard. "People can climb over barriers and that is what happened. We stand by our decision and would make the same call today."

The Zoo Director said the loss of Harambe has touched the hearts of many people within the community and beyond.

"This has been a huge loss to the zoo," Maynard said. "Not just emotional, but to our conservation efforts as well."

This incident has brought questions on whether, or not, the zoo will change its exhibits to ensure something like this never happens again. Those questions were also addressed in Monday's press conference.

"The safety of our visitors and our animals is our number one priority," Maynard said. "The barrier that we have in place has been effective for 38 years. Nevertheless, we will study this incident as we work toward continuous improvement for the safety of our visitors and animals."

The zoo is open, but the gorilla exhibit remains closed. It is expected to reopen next weekend.

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