A tragic story: Harambe and Isiah

Tragic events at Cincinnati Zoo lead to gorilla’s death, writes Georgia Mueck.

Social media has been blowing up since the weekend after video footage was released of the tragic events that unfolded at Cincinnati Zoo.

According to, three-year-old Isiah Gregg fell into the gorilla enclosure after he wandered away from his mother, Michelle Gregg, and climbed over a 1 metre tall public barrier that separated patrons from the attraction.

The enclosure held three gorillas, two of which were called out of the enclosure as soon as the boy fell down the 4.5 metre drop into the moat. The third gorilla, a 17-year-old Western lowland gorilla named Harambe, stayed in the enclosure and reportedly went down to where the boy had fallen.

Reports from witnesses vary as to whether Harambe behaved aggressively towards the toddler or not. One witness told ABC News that the gorilla “almost looked like he was helping [Isiah], pulled his pants up, stood him up…”, while another claimed that Harambe threw the toddler into the air and that they believed the child “could have been killed at any second…”.

An animal behavioural expert, Gisela Kaplan, from the University of New England, told that Harambe was not exhibiting behaviour that suggested he would hurt three-year-old Isiah.

“The silverback would [have] understood that it was a defenceless, small child. They would not normally attack, they are not an [aggressive] species (and) in the wild I’m certain the boy wouldn’t have been killed”, Gisela said.

Isiah was in the gorilla enclosure for 10 minutes before zoo officials made the call to shoot Harambe. They deemed that using a tranquilliser dart would not have been effective quickly enough.

The response to the death of Harambe has been quite negative, with the hashtag #JusticeforHarambe trending on social media, and the family of Isiah receiving death threats.

The Western lowland gorilla is a critically endangered species, with only an estimated 100,000 left in the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Michelle Greg and father Deonne Dickerson released a statement saying that Isiah is “doing well”, and encouraging people who wish to send them gifts to donate “to the Cincinnati Zoo in Harambe’s name”, clarifying that they themselves would not be accepting financial gifts.

Image: Flickr, Justin, no changes made

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