One of the zookeepers who had raised Harambe, the gorilla who was killed at the Cincinnati zoo after a child had fallen in the enclosure, has been grieving his death, comparing it to losing “a family member that was very close to you.”
Jerry Stones, director of the Gladys Porter Zoo, was there for Harambe’s birth and raised him to adulthood, before the gorilla was transferred to the Cincinnati zoo at the age of 15.
“We hand-raised him. I took him home at night with me,” Stones told ABC-affiliate KRGV-TV. “You know, you get up at midnight and change the diaper, just like you would a human baby. When I took this baby home, I was totally responsible. You become ‘Mom,’ they look at you just like a human baby.”
Stones didn’t comment on the specifics of what happened in the Cincinnati zoo because he wasn’t there to witness it, but said that the news of the death was heartbreaking.
“It’s like losing a family member, it tore me up. I was very close to him. His whole life, I was with him,” Stone said.
The Texas zookeeper had many fond memories of Harambe.
“I raised I don’t know how many baby gorillas, but he was memorable because he was so intelligent. He showed a positive attitude as far as leadership,” Harambe said. “He nurtured his siblings, he would carry them around. That was one of the reasons I pushed for him to go to Cincinnati, so that he could have a family.”
In response to Harambe, the Gladys Porter Zoo has set up a fund in his memory, devoted to gorilla conservation efforts.
“This is a chance for Harambe to help his family, even after his death.” Stones said, “We’re hoping that people with a negative attitude or a bunch of anger can turn that anger inward and help him.”