Over the weekend, a critically endangered gorilla named Harambe was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after a four-year-old boy fell into his habitat. The boy dropped 15 feet, and once inside, the 400-pound silverback gorilla allegedly dragged him around the enclosure. To protect the boy’s safety, the zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response team quickly decided to shoot and kill Harambe.
Much of the incident was caught on camera by zoo patron Kim O’Connor. But after a while, she says she had to stop.
“I was frozen in fear, it was too traumatic to be on camera,” O’Connor told PEOPLE. “What you don’t see is the way he pulled the boy up the wall. He was treating the little boy like a Raggedy Ann doll in his grip.”
The footage has many people very upset, and opinions are split on whether Harambe was being friendly or threatening toward the boy.
Many are speaking out, including The Big Bang Theory actress Kaley Cuoco. She posted this emotional note on Instagram in response:
“RIP #harambe Im sure I will get tons of backlash (per usual) I mean let’s be honest, I wear the wrong sweatpants and the entire world has something to say about it, but once again , another senseless horrendous animal being killed over people not using their brains. If you watch the footage, you see this gorgeous animal holding that child’s hand. Do with that ,what you will. As sad as this makes me, a part of me is happy for that amazing creature doesn’t have to live in captivity another day. Bring on the hate!!!!”
The zoo’s director Thane Maynard disputes claims like Kaley’s that Harambe was being protective, and insists he posed a threat to the boy’s life. It’s a tough situation that nobody feels good about, but the zoo seemed to have acted in the best interest of the child. We’re happy the boy is safe, but we mourn the loss of the beautiful gorilla with Kaley and the rest of the nation.