Harambe, a 17-year old gorilla, was shot dead after a four-year-old boy fell into its enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio.
Zoo officials say the boy fell after he climbed through a public barrier at the Gorilla World exhibit Saturday afternoon. He was picked up out of the moat and dragged by the gorilla for about 10 minutes.
Zoo Director Thane Maynard said the gorilla didn't appear to be attacking the child but was "an extremely strong" animal in an agitated situation. He said tranquilising the gorilla wouldn't have knocked it out immediately, leaving the boy in danger.
"They made a tough choice and they made the right choice because they saved that little boy's life," Maynard said.
Animal lovers slammed the zoo for its decision, claiming he was only trying to protect the child, who was taken to hospital, The Sun reported. Others lashed out at the child’s parents, even saying they should be charged with neglect.
The Hashtag #RIPHarambe is trending on Twitter and a Facebook group called Justice for Harambe was created and gathered more than 13,000 “likes” in just hours hours.
One Twitter used wrote: “If Haramabe was going to injure or kill the child, he would have done so. He was protecting/rescuing. Senseless murder of an animal.”