CINCINNATI — A federal inspection has concluded that the Cincinnati Zoo’s barrier to keep the public and gorillas separate wasn’t in compliance with standards for housing primates the day a 3-year-old boy slipped into the gorilla exhibit.
The federal inspection report viewed by The Associated Press states that the zoo’s dangerous-animal response team properly followed procedures after zoo visitors called 911 on May 28 to report a child in the gorilla enclosure.
A team member concluded that the child was in “life-threatening danger,” and the17-year-old gorilla named Harambe was killed.
The zoo quickly improved the barrier following the gorilla’s death. U.S. Agriculture Department spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa says an investigation is continuing. It could lead to fines or other disciplinary action.
In a letter to the Cincinnati Zoo’s board of directors, Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer, director of Animal Welfare Operations at the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service/Animal Care, wrote, “Animal Care recognizes and appreciates the swift and comprehensive actions taken in response to this incident, both the immediate response during the incident and the overall review of barrier systems throughout the facility. “
“We also acknowledge that the barrier system at Gorilla World was considered to be in compliance with Section 3.78(e) of the Animal Welfare Act Regulations during inspections prior to the incident in question and had been performing admirably for many years,” Goldentyer wrote, CBS affiliate WKRC in Cincinnati reported.
Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard said the zoo remains committed to visitor and animal safety “and will continue to work with the USDA and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to ensure that our exhibits meet or exceed standards,” WKRC reported.