No monkeying around now. The Cincinnati Zoo reopened its Gorilla World exhibit on Tuesday, June 7, ten days after the death of the 17-year-old gorilla Harambe, according to Cincinnati.com.
The exhibit has been closed since May 28, when zoo officials shot the western lowland gorilla because he was dragging around a 4-year-old boy who had climbed into the enclosure. The controversial incident led to outcry on social media, with many arguing that the gorilla was protecting the boy, not harming him.
“Today is a big day. Cincinnati is ready to see gorillas again,” Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard said in a press conference, the local news website reports. “I think you can imagine, we’ve gone through the zoo and everywhere that needs to be bolstered, we are doing it.”
While Maynard defended the previous Gorilla World barrier by explaining it has passed regular inspections for 38 years, the zoo felt a better fence would help visitors feel safer. “Nonetheless, we felt a new, bigger barrier helps reassure our visitors and guests and redoubles our efforts to make sure that our animals are safe and that our visitors are as well,” Maynard said.
The new fence around the animal’s habitat, which is 42 inches higher than the old one, features wood beams on the top and bottom with rope netting in between. Another addition to the exhibit: a glass case holding cards, letters and drawings with a sign that says “Honoring Harambe.”
As Us Weekly previously reported, the mother of the toddler, Michelle Gregg, will not be charged in the incident that led to Harambe’s shooting. Many people blamed the mom for the animal’s death, which led authorities to investigate her parenting. The woman defended herself in a now-deleted Facebook post, writing, “As a society we are quick to judge how a parent could take their eyes off of their child and if anyone knows me I keep a tight watch on my kids.”
Maynard has also stood by the decision to kill Harambe. “That child’s life was in danger,” he previously said in a press conference. “People who question that don’t understand you can’t take a risk with a silverback gorilla — this is a dangerous animal. Looking back, we’d make the same decision. The child is safe.” He also explained why zoo staffers didn’t tranquilize the gorilla. “That would have definitely created alarm in the male gorilla. When you dart an animal, anesthetic doesn’t work in one second, it works over a period of a few minutes to 10 minutes.”
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