Great Plains Zoo On Killing Of Gorilla In Cincinnati: ‘It was the right decision.’
An incident that took place at the Cincinnati Zoo on Saturday has captured the nation’s attention. Zoo staff shot and killed an endangered gorilla after a 3-year-old boy fell into the enclosure. Some people are outraged that the zoo didn’t take measures to save the animal, others are asking that the boy’s mother be charged.
“It was a horrible incident, to lose an important animal and to have a child at risk,” said President and CEO of the Great Plains Zoo Elizabeth Whealy.
However horrible it may be, Whealy says the safety of their staff and patrons take priority over any animal.
“The Cincinnati Zoo had to prioritize, there was a child at risk, I think they made the right decision,” said Whealy.
Whealy says they ask the ‘what ifs’ all the time. She says a select group of staff at the Great Plains zoo, including their full time Veterinarian, have access to firearms and tranquilizers if necessary. They go through rigorous training to store and operate them properly.
Whealy said, “If that were to happen, we have safety protocols in place and all of our staff are drilled on these many so we would know what to do to save that child.”
Whealy says their exhibits are also inspected by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the USDA. Zookeepers also do it daily.
“Zoos are very carefully designed to make sure that animals stay where they need to stay and that people stay where they need to stay,” Whealy said.
But as we saw in Ohio, a child was still able to bypass a metal railing, four feet of bushes, and a 15 foot drop before he reached harms way.
Whealy said, “There’s no amount of planning that, if someone wants to breach an exhibit, they probably can.”
As a parent herself, Whealy says she knows how fast kids can wander away.
“You really need to hang onto your kids, but the other message is… this is a time when your kids are learning about wildlife and having a really fun day with you, so put down the selfie stick, put down your phone, engage with your child and enjoy the day at the zoo,” said Whealy.
Whealy says the 400 pound Silverback killed in Cincinnati was an important species to the Western Lowland Gorilla. She says it’s not just the loss of one gorilla that they’re mourning, but the genetics that it represents to the whole population.
The Cincinnati Zoo had plans to use Harambe the gorilla in their successful breeding program. As for the child, he suffered serious injuries, but is expected to survive.