Maryland Zoo on the decision to kill an animal

Posted at 6:11 PM, May 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-31 06:43:31-04

There's growing outrage from animal rights activists over the death of a 400-pound gorilla after a 4-year-old boy fell into the Gorilla World exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo.

The boy managed to crawl under a steel railing, and made his way through wires and bushes before falling about 15-feet into a moat.

A special response team killed the gorilla named Harambe Saturday after he dragged the young boy through water at the gorilla enclosure.

“The zoo had to make a decision about the safety of the child and they chose to destroy the gorilla to ensure the safety of the little boy,” said Mike McClure, the general curator of the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

Some are now asking why they couldn’t have tranquilized Harambe, who celebrated his 17th birthday the day before his death. McClure said while it's an option, officials have to consider all the risks.

“What you see on television isn't always the most accurate. A dart with an anesthetic that is injected into an animal is something that can really agitate them and it takes atleast 10 minutes to take effect,” McClure said.

And in situations like that, human life is always their top priority. Parents at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore on Monday agreed.

“Obviously, the zoo had to do what they believe was going to be in the best interest of the child. They had to make a quick decision, it's not always easy to do that under the high stress circumstances they were in, so it seemed like an entirely appropriate thing to do,” said Michael Parks who was at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore with his son.

But parents are also wondering where the little boy's parents were when he climbed through the barrier and into the enclosure.

“Parents have to pay attention and how that would've ever happened is beyond me,” said Irving Walker who brought his 2-year-old granddaughter to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

It's an accident that no one planned for but there are actions zookeepers, like McClure, take to try and prevent something like it from ever occurring.

Every day zoo staff enter the exhibits, check the barriers, and look for any breaches or anything else that could compromise the safety of visitors or the animals. On top of daily checks, they perform animal escape drills every quarter. McClure also said they constantly think about safety and how to improve enclosures.

“We make what we think is going to be the best possible environment for all involved and as a part of that you're never satisfied with what you have. You always go back and look at it later and decide, 'alright, do we need to change this? Is there something that might be a potential weakness, and what can we do differently?'” he said.

While he can’t recall any similar mishaps at the Maryland Zoo, he said they’ve been fortunate and having to put down any animal is a great loss.

“We try not to get emotionally attached even though that's very hard not hard to do, but you have to be able to make good judgments about the care of your animal. We try and do it as scientifically as possible, but any animal that is under your care that dies whether of natural causes or something else, it's always a heavy blow and a very sad moment,” said McClure.

The mother of the 4-year-old posted on Facebook that her boy suffered a concussion and some scrapes, but no broken bones or internal injuries. The post was later deleted.

The Cincinnati Police Department doesn't plan to file charges against the mother.

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