Jerry Stones is shedding tears. He tells media, “An old man can cry, too.” Stones is heartbroken following the shooting death of Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla, a day after the Silverback Western Lowland Gorilla’s birthday. He’s Harambe’s former caretaker at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. He described the gorilla as very smart and a “gentle giant.”
Michelle Gregg’s four-year-old son climbed into Harambe’s enclosure at his new home at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. The toddler was dragged through the water, injured, and transported to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center with serious but ‘non-life threatening’ injuries following the incident that was captured on cell phone video.
“For those of you that have seen the news or been on social media, that was my son that fell into the gorilla exhibit at the zoo,” reads a note posted on Gregg’s Facebook page.
“God protected my child until the authorities were able to get to him. My son is safe and was able to walk away with a concussion and a few scrapes . . . no broken bones or internal injuries.’’
A Facebook page titled “Justice for Harambe’’ was created in tribute to the 17-year-old rare gorilla, and at the time of this writing has garnered more than 38K likes.
Gregg’s son fell over the perimeter into the Gorilla World Exhibit, a drop of about 10-12 feet.
Zoo director Thame Maynard says Harambe failed to obey orders to leave the open enclosure, saying his actions forced the zoo to shoot him to death.
“Our first response was to call the gorillas out of the exhibit. The two females complied, but Harambe did not,” Maynard said on Sunday, May 29 a day after the incident.
He adds, “It is important to note that with the child still in the exhibit, tranquilizing the 450-pound gorilla was not an option. Tranquilizers do not take effect for several minutes, and the child was in imminent danger.
“We are heartbroken about losing Harambe, but a child’s life was in danger.”
Police have said the parents of a four-year-old who climbed into a gorilla’s enclosure could face criminal charges after staff were forced to kill the animal.
To her detractors and those who wanted to hold her accountable, Gregg’s Facebook page reads: “As a society we are quick to judge how a parent could take their eyes off of their child and if anyone knows me I keep a tight watch on my kids. Accidents happen but I am thankful that the right people were in the right place today.”
Harambe’s life expectancy was 60 years old.