“The little boy, once he fell, I don’t think the gorilla even knew that he was in there until he heard him splashing in the water,” Brittany Nicely told ABC News.
The killing has been controversial, and some had deemed it unnecessary, especially by animal rights activists.
“The gorilla rushed the boy, but did not hit the boy,” Nicely said. “He almost was guarding the boy, was protecting him.”
— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) May 29, 2016
Video footage from the zoo showed that the gorilla was dragging the child around in the enclosure, but a local fire department said the animal was “was violently dragging and throwing the child.”
The child was released from the hospital on Saturday, after suffering non-life threatening injuries.
The boy had crawled through a public barrier and fell 15-feet into a moat in the gorilla enclosure, where he was picked up by the animal.
The animal was later shot dead with a rifle.
“We are heartbroken about losing Harambe [the gorilla], but a child’s life was in danger and a quick decision had to be made by our Dangerous Animal Response Team,” Zoo Director Thane Maynard said in a statement.
Maynard said that tranquilizing the gorilla was not an option because it would take time for the drug to go into effect, and it might agitate the gorilla in the meantime, endangering the child.