Since a 3-year-old little boy fell into an enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo Saturday and zoo personnel killed Harambe, a 17-year-old, 450-pound gorilla seen hovering over the child, public reaction to the slaying has exploded on the web, talk radio and television.
In a video of the incident, the small boy, Isiah Dickerson, can be seen walking and splashing after he crawled through a barrier, fell 15 feet and landed in the gorilla enclosure moat. Harambe stood next to Isiah, picked him up and dragged him around the habitat for close to 10 minutes while onlookers screamed. The zoo’s dangerous animal response team considered it a “life-threatening situation” for Isiah and killed Harambe.
The boy was taken to the hospital but released Saturday evening. His family said Isiah is “doing fine” and thanked the zoo personnel for making quick decisions.
Watch a video of the incident:
Animal activists even launched a trending Twitter hashtag demanding #JusticeForHarambe. A Justice for Harambe Facebook page popped up only hours after the incident. And a Change.org petition signed by nearly 400,000 people suggests the boy’s parents, Michelle Gregg and Deonne Dickerson, showed parental negligence and should face an investigation of the Isiah’s home environment. Some even suggested subjecting children to a law requiring they wear leashes.
“She should have [had] her child on a leash so she knew he was safe,” said one commenter at the Heavy.
“Time to fasten your child into a stroller or a child leash,” another person wrote on the site Hollywood Life.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, even went so far as to denounce zoos and zoo patrons.
“Yet again, captivity has taken an animal’s life,” PETA primatologist Julia Gallucci told Cincinnati’s WCPO-TV 9. “The gorilla enclosure should have been surrounded by a secondary barrier between the humans and the animals to prevent exactly this type of incident. This tragedy is exactly why PETA urges families to stay away from any facility that displays animals as sideshows for humans to gawk at.”
Talk-radio star Rush Limbaugh had some words of his own about the incident.
“The thing is, nobody was gonna get that boy out of that gorilla’s hands,” Limbaugh said on his show Tuesday. “Nobody was gonna be able to walk in there and say, ‘Hey, Harambe, hey bud. Hey, you know, we need to take that little toy that you just got. We need to take it away from you.’ Right. It was not going to happen.”
Limbaugh said he doesn’t believe Isiah would have escaped alive if Harambe hadn’t been shot. He said the gorilla’s handlers “are probably feeling the worst of anybody, ’cause that gorilla was part of their lives.”
“But it comes down to, what do you value here?” Limbaugh asked. “Should the boy lose his life because the mother was irresponsible, let him plunge in the first place? Should the gorilla’s life take primacy? … Depends on how you value human life versus all other life on the planet.”
GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump called the situation a “tough call,” but ultimately said zoo personnel likely had no choice but to kill the gorilla.
“I think it’s a very tough call,” Trump said Tuesday in remarks made at Trump Tower in New York. “It was amazing because there were moments with the gorilla, the way he held that child almost like a mother holding a baby. It looked so beautiful and calm.
“And there were moments where it looked pretty dangerous. I don’t think they had a choice. I mean, probably, they didn’t have a choice. You have a child, a young child is at stake. You know, it’s too bad that there wasn’t another way. I thought it was so beautiful to watch that powerful, almost 500-pound gorilla, the way he dealt with that little boy, but it just takes one second. One second. It’s not like it takes place over well … he’s going to do it in 30 seconds from now. It just takes one little flick of his finger, and I will tell you, they probably had no choice.”
Watch Trump’s statements:
The incident has captured global attention, and even celebrity zookeeper Jack Hanna supported the decision to kill Harambe. But Hanna didn’t defend the mother’s actions.
Hanna told CBS “This Morning” “I agree 1,000%” with the officials’ decision to take out the gorilla before he hurt Isiah.
“They made the correct decision,” Hanna said, adding, “A human being is alive today because of the decision the Cincinnati Zoo made.”
Steven Crowder, a Canadian-American actor, former Fox News contributor and host of “Louder with Crowder,” posted the following “mind-bender” on Twitter comparing public outrage over the loss of a gorilla’s life and that of an unborn human being:
Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall wrote an email to the zoo director extending her sympathies and noting that she believes Harambe may have been trying to protect Isiah.
“I tried to see exactly what was happening,” Goodall wrote, according to Time. “It looked as though the gorilla was putting an arm round the child. … Anyway, whatever, it is a devastating loss to the zoo, and to the gorillas.”
Goodall added, “I feel so sorry for you, having to try to defend something which you may well disapprove of.”
Hanna warned parents to always watch their children.
“I guess maybe [the mother] was doing something else (instead of keeping an eye on her son),” he said. “I don’t know. I wasn’t there.”
Cincinnati police told the Cincinnati Enquirer investigators are “looking at the facts and circumstances” of the situation.
Lt. Steve Saunders told the paper, “It’s too early to say whether it was recklessness on the part of the parent. We’re just doing our due diligence to make sure we know what happened.”
According to the Enquirer, Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters said, one the investigation concludes, his office will “confer with” police about possible criminal charges.
Isiah’s mother, Michelle Gregg, posted the following message on Facebook after the incident Saturday:
“I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers today. What started off as a wonderful day turned into a scary one. For those of you that have seen the news or been on social media that was my son that fell in the gorilla exhibit at the zoo. God protected my child until the authorities were able to get him. My son is safe and was able to walk away with a concussion and a few scrapes … no broken bones or internal injuries.
“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. Thank you to everyone that helped me and my son today and most importantly God for being the awesome God that He is.”