Report: Barrier to gorilla exhibit entered by boy ineffective

Associated Press


A barrier separating Cincinnati Zoo visitors from a gorilla exhibit wasn’t in compliance with standards when a 3-year-old boy slipped inside, resulting in the shooting death of an endangered gorilla named Harambe, federal inspectors concluded.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report, obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, also stated the zoo’s dangerous-animal response team properly followed procedures after visitors called 911 on May 28 to report a child in the gorilla enclosure. A team member concluded the child was in “life-threatening danger.”

The death of the 17-year-old male western lowland gorilla led to mourning around the globe and a storm of criticism and unending social media attention.

The zoo quickly made the barrier taller and added nylon mesh and surveillance cameras. It said there had been no previous problems in the Gorilla World exhibit’s 38-year history and its barriers were always found compliant in earlier federal inspections, including in April.

The federal investigation is continuing and could lead to fines or other disciplinary action.

Department spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said the barriers must restrict public contact from the gorillas.

“It became apparent on May 28 that the barrier was no longer effective,” Espinosa said via email. “The Cincinnati Zoo took swift and comprehensive corrective action in response.”

Zoo Director Thane Maynard said the zoo will continue to work with authorities to ensure its exhibits meet or exceed standards.

The Department of Agriculture inspectors said in a report dated June 6 there had been “some slack” in wire cables in the barrier that could have been “manipulated to an eight-inch gap.” Beyond the barrier were bushes and other landscaping that was 18 to 24 inches tall, followed by a 15-foot drop-off into a moat.

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