Wednesday 7 December 2016

Zoo where gorilla shot dead set to reopen a week after boy fell into pen

Dan Sewell

Published 07/06/2016 | 07:04

A boy brings flowers to put beside a statue of a gorilla outside the shuttered Gorilla World exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Monday, May 30, 2016, in Cincinnati
A boy brings flowers to put beside a statue of a gorilla outside the shuttered Gorilla World exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Monday, May 30, 2016, in Cincinnati
A June 20, 2015 photo provided by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden shows Harambe, a western lowland gorilla, who was fatally shot Saturday, May 28, 2016, to protect a 4-year-old boy who had entered its exhibit

The Cincinnati Zoo will reopen its gorilla exhibit on Tuesday with a higher, reinforced barrier installed after a young boy got into the exhibit and was dragged by a gorilla, which was then shot and killed.

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The exhibit's reopening comes a day after Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said he would not bring charges against the boy's mother, who was tending to another child when Her three-year-old "just scampered off" as children sometimes do.

Mr Deters said he happy with the improvements to the exhibit.

The barrier, which had passed repeated inspections by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, will now be 42 inches high - a half-foot taller than before - with solid wood beams at the top and bottom, plus knotted rope netting at the bottom, zoo spokeswoman Michelle Curley said.

A June 20, 2015 photo provided by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden shows Harambe, a western lowland gorilla, who was fatally shot Saturday, May 28, 2016, to protect a 4-year-old boy who had entered its exhibit
A June 20, 2015 photo provided by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden shows Harambe, a western lowland gorilla, who was fatally shot Saturday, May 28, 2016, to protect a 4-year-old boy who had entered its exhibit

Read More: No charges against boy's mother in gorilla case

The boy apparently climbed over the previous barrier on May 28, made his way through some bushes and fell about 15 feet into a shallow moat.

A special response team shot the agitated, 17-year-old gorilla to protect the boy, who was treated for scrapes.

The killing of the gorilla, a 400-pound male named Harambe, set off a torrent of criticism online.

Read More: Mother whose son fell into Cincinnati zoo gorilla pen will not face charges

Some commenters vilified the zoo for shooting the animal, while others blamed the mother for not watching her child more closely.

The family said the decision by Mr Deters not to seek charges "is one more step in allowing us to put this tragic episode behind us".

The prosecutor said he has been surprised by the reaction to the gorilla's death, although the zoo had suffered a great loss.

Read More: Mother of boy (4) who fell into gorilla enclosure before animal was shot dead responds to critics

But Mr Deters said: "It's still an animal. It does not equate human life, and they felt that this boy's life was in jeopardy, and they made the painful choice to do what they did."

The zoo's actions will be reviewed by the US department of agriculture. An animal protection group has urged that the zoo be fined.

The zoo says its 10 remaining gorillas are doing well. Two are 20-year-old females who were grouped with Harambe. The others are a family group of eight, led by a silverback named Jomo.

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