‘Parental Negligence’: Thousands Sign Petition That Condemns Killing of Zoo Gorilla

May 30, 2016 Updated: May 30, 2016

A petition that seeks “justice for Harambe,” the 17-year-old gorilla that was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo over the weekend has garnered more than 120,000 signatures. Some started using the hashtag #JusticeForHarambe.

Harambe was shot and killed after a 4-year-old boy fell into the enclosure. The gorilla got ahold of the boy and apparently dragged him. Zoo officials then shot and killed the animal.

The Change.org petition seeks to “actively encourage an investigation of the child’s home environment in the interests of protecting the child and his siblings from further incidents of parental negligence that may result in serious bodily harm or even death.” The petition, its creator states, will be sent to the director of the Cincinnati Zoo.

On social media, some said that the zoo was at fault, but others said that the parents should be held responsible.

The zoo said that it took the lethal measures against the 400-pound western lowland gorilla, as the situation was “life-threatening.” Officials said that tranquilizers would not have had a quick enough effect.

The boy had climbed through a barrier and fallen approximately 10 feet into a moat. Video footage shows the boy being dragged through the water. The gorilla then stops, with the child below him and looking up. Reports said the video only paints one side of the story, as the gorilla dragged the child for about 10 minutes.

The boy was taken to a local hospital.

Zoo director Thane Maynard told reporters: “[The officials] made a tough choice and they made the right choice because they saved that little boy’s life. It could have been very bad.” He added that the boy wasn’t being attacked but “certainly was at risk,” the BBC reported.

He said, “We are all devastated that this tragic accident resulted in the death of a critically endangered gorilla. This is a huge loss for the zoo family and the gorilla population worldwide.”

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a statement from its primatologist Julia Gallucci saying the zoo should have had better barriers between humans and gorillas.

“This tragedy is exactly why PETA urges families to stay away from any facility that displays animals as sideshows for humans to gawk at,” the statement said.

The zoo said it’s the first such spectator breach at Gorilla World since it opened in 1978 and that the exhibit undergoes regular outside inspections. The zoo said earlier this year it plans to expand the exhibit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.