Michelle Gregg, the mother of the 3-year-old boy who wandered into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, has received much criticism for the shooting death of Harambe. Animal Planet host Jeff Corwin placed blame on Gregg for not keeping an eye on the toddler, “The zoo is not your babysitter.” Now there is a backlash against the zoo because of the barrier surrounding the Gorilla World exhibit is seen by some as inadequate.
Isaiah Dickerson, the 3-year-old boy who sparked controversy on Saturday, told his mother, “Mummy, I want to swim with the gorilla.” The young boy was able to climb over the fence, wander through a short row of bushes and then plummet down a 15-foot drop into the moat where Harambe the gorilla greeted him. The 17-year-old silverback gorilla was shot dead about ten minutes after the boy entered the exhibit.
The barrier separating zoo visitors and 400-pound gorillas is only a 3-foot fence and has vertical bars, which actually may have helped the boy climb over the barrier.
This was the first incident at the Gorilla World exhibit since it opened in 1978. The Cincinnati Zoo’s director, Thayne Maynard, claims that the Gorilla World’s barrier setup exceeds required protocols. It was the first time the Cincinnati Zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team was called to kill an animal in the institution’s 143-year history.
Exhibits are inspected by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums every five years, Maynard said. “The exhibit is safe, the barrier is safe. The zoo was not negligent.”
“We take safety very seriously. That’s an ongoing process. I’m not a big finger-pointer. Politicians and pundits point fingers. We live in the real world and we make real decisions. People, kids and others, can climb over barriers. If someone really wants to get in, they can. Everybody should keep a hold of their kids and keep an eye on them, here or anywhere.”
Both the United States Department of Agriculture‘s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums plan investigations of the incident.
The USDA inspects the facility twice a year. They found ten violations at the Cincinnati Zoo in the last three years. But most were minor, and none were at Gorilla World.
After seeing the 3-foot fence do you put blame on the zoo, the mother or both?
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