Jane Goodall, the famed British primatologist, revealed her thoughts about the Cincinnati Zoo’s decision to shoot and kill Harambe the gorilla in late May.
Several weeks ago, Goodall refrained from commenting on Harambe’s death in the midst of intense public scorn of the zoo and the parents of a 3-year-old boy who fell into the gorilla’s enclosure.
On Sunday, she issued a response, addressing several points following the gorilla’s death.
Goodall said she agreed with the zoo’s controversial decision to shoot the ape, as “it takes time for a tranquilizing dart to take effect,” but she noted that “it was awful for the child, the parents, Harambe, the zoo, the keepers and the public.”
“When people come into contact with wild animals, life and death decisions sometimes have to be made,” she stated, according to a transcript containing her answers published by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) conservation charity.
Meanwhile, it’s nearly impossible to prevent similar incident from happening again, she said.
“There is never a 100% accident proof way of ensuring a wild animal kept in captivity will not pose a threat to people,” Goodall said, adding that there are American as well as international organizations that have developed and adopted public safety measures at zoos around the world.
“However, we will never be able to be 100 percent sure that people and wildlife won’t be injured when they are in such close proximity,” she said.
Days after Harambe was shot, Goodall had written an email to Thane Maynard, the Cincinnati Zoo director, saying she thought the gorilla might have been protecting the boy, “putting an arm” around him, but she didn’t elaborate. She also extended her condolences to Maynard.
In the IFAW interview, Goodall said it’s difficult to know Harambe’s intentions when he made contact with the child, but even so, the gorilla’s size and power could have posed grave risks for the boy even if it didn’t want to hurt the child.
“It certainly appeared at times that he was being gentle, but he was nervous and agitated by the unexpected arrival of the child and the shouting of the people watching,” she said. In video footage of Harambe dragging the child across the enclosure, screams from onlookers can be heard.
Goodall released the joint question-and-answer response on Sunday, June 19, with Azzedine Downes, the president and CEO of IFAW. Their response was delayed because “we felt that everyone involved in this situation—the injured child and frightened parent, the keepers and administrators at the zoo, and Harambe himself deserved time for grieving, reflection and careful reasoning,” the website said.
Last week, Maynard wrote that the zoo is moving forward from the shooting.
“We also are building a giant new indoor viewing area for our gorillas, which will nearly double the size of their exhibit and make it possible for visitors to see gorillas every day, even in the winter. This new facility will allow us to exhibit more gorillas and do an even better job with their husbandry and breeding,” he said in an editorial for the Cincinnati Enquirer.