In Brief

Gorilla zoo shooting: Calls to prosecute parents

Ohio authorities to decide whether to press charges after young boy climbed into animal's enclosure

Gorilla Cincinnati Zoo

Criminal charges may be brought against the parents of a four-year-old child who climbed into the gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo, in Ohio, forcing staff to shoot and kill a male silverback.

Harambe, the 17-year-old 400lb animal, was shot after authorities were unable to rescue the boy and the ape became agitated.

Video footage shows Harambe dragging the unnamed child by his foot through water in the enclosure.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_original","fid":"95504","attributes":{"class":"media-image"}}]]

Thane Maynard, the zoo's director, said they had no other choice but to put the gorilla down. "This child was being dragged around and his head was banging on the concrete," he said.

Rejecting claims that the gorilla was trying to protect the child, Maynard said: "This was not a gentle thing."

He added: "The risk was down to the power of the animal, his strength," saying that Harambe could crush a coconut with one hand.

Staff at the zoo have been in tears, he said, despite the messages of support.

Animal activists and campaigners across the world have criticised the zoo's actions, with more than 70,000 petitioners signing up to a campaign on Change.org calling for the parents to be investigated.

"This beautiful gorilla lost his life because the boy's parents did not keep a closer watch on the child. We the undersigned believe that the child would not have been able to enter the enclosure under proper parental supervision," it says.

"It is believed that the situation was caused by parental negligence and the zoo is not responsible for the child's injuries and possible trauma."

Cincinnati police said the parents have not been charged, but that charges could eventually be sought by the Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, according to The Independent.

The child's mother has rejected claims that her negligence lead to the animal's death.

"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," she said in a deleted Facebook post, which The Guardian has confirmed was genuine.

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