Unexpectedly, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens were the focus of Memorial Day weekend news coverage, after their star gorilla Harambe was shot to protect a boy who had fallen into its enclosure.

We are heartbroken about losing Harambe, but a child’s life was in danger and a quick decision had to be made by our Dangerous Animal Response Team,” said Zoo Director Thane Maynard. “Our first response was to call the gorillas out of the exhibit. The two females complied, but Harambe did not.

It is important to note that with the child still in the exhibit, tranquilizing the 450-pound gorilla was not an option. Tranquilizers do not take effect for several minutes and the child was in imminent danger. On top of that, the impact from the dart could agitate the animal and cause the situation to get much worse.”

The death of such a magnificent animal is heartbreaking. However, as an environmental health and safety professional, I want to commend the zoo staff and Cincinnati Fire Department (CFD) for proper response priorities, which are:

1) Human life and safety.
2) The environment.
3) The facility and its assets.

The boy, who has not been identified, was released from Cincinnati Hospital Medical Center and is “doing just fine“.

I studiously delete stories about animal cruelty and child abuse from my social media newsfeeds, so I made every effort to ignore this media-created saga. However, having done emergency response myself, once social justice warriors began attacking the choices made by trained professionals, I wanted to offer my support.

I am not the only one, either. Famed animal handler, “Jungle Jack” Hanna, the director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, agrees 1000% with the response.

The elite media wasted no time ginning up outrageous outrage over this incident, and animal rights activists have arranged for a vigil:

…Witnesses said the gorilla was acting protectively in the tense situation, which may have been aggravated by panicked onlookers who screamed as they watched from above.

Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard confirmed the boy was not under attack, but he described it as ‘an extremely strong animal in an agitated situation’ before supporting the response team’s decision to kill Harambe.

The incident, which was captured on a cell phone camera, has sparked an outcry of emotion, with thousands of mourners branding it a ‘senseless death’.

A vigil for Harambe is being held outside the Cincinnati Zoo today. The organizer Anthony Seta, who describes himself as an animal rights advocate, clarified the gathering was ‘not a protest against the zoo’….

Social justice warriors promptly began virtue-signaling, mainly by blaming the parents. Check out the #JusticeForHarambe tweets!

I suspect many of these animal lovers have no children of their own. From my own experience, I know four-year-old boys can move faster than parents. In fact, a detailed eyewitness account corresponds with my sense of what likely happened:

…Actually, just prior to him going over, but she [the mother] couldn’t see him crawling through the bushes! She said “He was right here! I took a pic and his hand was in my back pocket and then gone!” As she could find him nowhere, she lookes to my husband (already over the railing talking to the child) and asks, “Sir, is he wearing green shorts? ” My husband reluctantly had to tell her yes, when she then nearly had a break down! They are both wanting to go over into the 15 foot drop, when I forbade my husband to do so, and attempted to calm the mother by calling 911 and assure her help was on the way…

Additionally, given today’s messaging that minimizes the risks wild animals pose to humans, perhaps the boy felt the gorilla would greet him like a Sesame Street buddy?

After an emergency of this nature, a review will be conducted to determine what system protections failed. Based on the reports, and the fact a zoo should be able to reasonably anticipate small children (and sometimes adults) will try to explore enclosures, I would say that the root cause of Harambe’s death is this:

Even if there was never an incident in the preceding 30 years, I would likely urge the zoo to re-evaluate all its enclosures in the wake of what happened this weekend.

Meanwhile, I want to thank zoo crew and fire department team for the efforts that saved the life of a little boy.