Cincinnati Zoo reopens gorilla exhibit since Harambe's death

Gorilla World reopens (VIDEO)

AVONDALE, OH (FOX19) - The Cincinnati Zoo reopened its gorilla exhibit with new physical barriers Tuesday.

This comes in response to the 3-year-old boy who gained access to the enclosure late last month, resulting in the killing of Harambe, a 17-year-old western lowland gorilla.

"This has been a difficult and emotional time for everyone at the Zoo, especially Harambe's caretakers.  We've never been through anything like this, and the experience has been surreal," said Zoo Director Thane Maynard. "I see today's reopening as the symbolic start of a healing process for our staff, our members and the Cincinnati community."

The new barriers at Gorilla World are being raised 6 inches to 3.5 feet. It has wood beams at the top and on the bottom with knotted rope netting, zoo officials say. In addition to the barriers, three additional surveillance cameras have been installed.

The previous, 3-foot barrier fence passed multiple safety inspections by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, according to zoo officials.

The child climbed the old fence, crawled through bushes and d ropped into a moat May 28.

Over 10 minutes, the 400-pound gorilla interacted with the child and dragged him through the water.

The zoo's animal response team shot and killed the the endangered species to protect the boy.

It was the first breach in Gorilla World's 38 years of existence, according to zoo officials.

Officials said zoo employees and volunteers gathered in Gorilla World early Tuesday morning, before the Zoo opened, to see gorillas for the first time in ten days.

"We have been leaning on each other to get through this," said Maynard.  "Coming together this morning was cathartic. It will take time for us to heal, but we're moving in that direction."

The family group of eight that includes three little ones and is headed by silverback Jomo, was out this Monday.

"Many people have asked how our other gorillas are doing.  Their caretakers have been telling us that they're fine, but seeing them go about their usual routine this morning made all of us feel better," said Maynard.

Since Harambe's death, zoo officials are asking the public for helping redoubling its efforts to support gorilla conservation. The Zoo is raising funds in Harambe's honor to be donated to the Mbeli Bai Study.

The barrier opens a day after Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced no charges would be filed against the boy's mother.

The USDA continues their investigation into how the zoo handled the incident.

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