Trilby Beresford
May 30, 2016 3:49 pm
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Accidents involving children at zoos don’t happen too often (thankfully), but last Saturday there was a unfortunate situation that took a tragic turn at Cincinnati Zoo. A 4-year-old boy fell into a gorilla enclosure, and a 17-year-old, 400-pound silverback gorilla named Harambe proceeded to carry the terrified boy around as onlookers screamed (there’s a frightening video taken by one of those onlookers) for help. The Zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team acted quickly and, as they anticipated the boy’s life to be endangered, they shot and killed Harambe — who was a critically endangered animal.

Since this incident, more information has surfaced about Harambe, including that he was born in the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, and raised by zoo-veteran Jerry Stones. He expressed to the New York Daily News, “[Harambe] was a special guy in my life. Harambe was my heart. It’s like losing a member of the family.”

In 2015, Harambe was ready to become a leader in a new environment, so he was transported to the Cincinnati Zoo. There, he quickly became friends with two older female gorillas; Chewie and Mara. The zookeepers had hopes to breed him once he hit maturity, which makes his loss even harder to deal with.

According to the World Wildlife Foundation, the western lowland silverback gorillas are classified as critically endangered, despite being the most widespread of the gorilla subspecies. This is mainly due to poaching, disease, and the destruction of their habitats across Central Africa. By far the most worst news of all is that, as with elephants and other primates, gorillas are still killed for human consumption. This atrocity, known as the “bushmeat” trade, is a rapidly expanding crisis.

We miss you, Harambe, and hope you are resting in peace. We’re saddened by everything about this tragic situation.

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