New video footage of Harambe shows the 400-pound gorilla HOLDING HANDS with the boy who fell into the zoo enclosure as witnesses say the animal was 'acting protectively'
- Harambe was fatally shot after a four-year-old boy crawled past the railing and fell 10ft into the gorilla exhibit moat, authorities said
- But witnesses said the gorilla was 'acting protectively' and zoo director confirmed the boy was not under attack
- Video shows boy reaching for Harambe's arm, and they briefly held hands
- Many have blamed the boy's parents for 17-year-old Harambe's death
- They released a statement on Sunday saying their boy is doing 'just fine'
- Prosecutors could charge parents of the boy who fell into the enclosure
- Witness heard boy saying he wanted to get in the water, but his mother, who was taking care of several children, told him 'no'
- Zoo director said a tranquilizer would have taken too long with the possibility of agitating the animal
New video footage of Harambe the gorilla suggests he was trying to protect a four-year-old boy who fell into the zoo enclosure just minutes before the 400-pound animal was fatally shot.
The clip shows Harambe standing guard over the boy in the corner of the moat, and the two even share a brief moment holding hands.
Witnesses said the gorilla was acting protectively in the tense situation, which may have been aggravated by panicked onlookers who screamed as they watched from above.
Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard confirmed the boy was not under attack, but he described it as 'an extremely strong animal in an agitated situation' before supporting the response team's decision to kill Harambe.
The incident, which was captured on cell phone, has sparked an outcry of emotion, with thousands of mourners branding it a 'senseless death'.
A vigil for Harambe is being held outside the Cincinnati Zoo today. The organizer Anthony Seta, who describes himself as an animal rights advocate, called it a 'senseless death' but clarified the vigil was 'not a protest against the zoo'.
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A special zoo response team shot and killed a 17-year-old gorilla named Harambe to protect a four-year-old who fell in the enclosure. But new video footage shows the two briefly holding hands (pictured)
The clip shows Harambe standing guard in the corner of the moat (left, with the boy behind Harambe), and witnesses said the gorilla looked like he was trying to protect the boy from panicked bystanders (right)
A mother who was at the zoo said she tried to stop the child, who authorities believe crawled past the railing and fell 10 feet into the gorilla's habitat, where he spent more than 10 minutes.
'I tried to prevent it, I tried to grab him and I just couldn’t get to him fast enough,' Brittany Nicely told WHIO.
According to Nicely, the gorilla was acting protectively towards the boy and did not exhibit any threatening behavior.
A newly released video shows Harambe standing over the boy in the corner of the moat, appearing to shield him from the screaming crowd above.
The animal then dragged the boy by the leg, but the two shared a surprisingly tender moment when the four-year-old reached for Harambe's arm and the two briefly held hands.
According to the fire department incident report, the gorilla was 'violently dragging and throwing the child', WLWT reported.
But Nicely contradicted the account, saying: 'What the first responders saw, I’m just not sure...They said he was violently throwing the child around, which seems crazy to me.
'They have a picture of the boy sitting in front of the gorilla moments before they shot him.'
Kim O'Connor told WLWT she heard the boy talking about getting into the water before she heard a splash, followed by frantic yelling when onlookers realized he was inside the enclosure.
According to O'Connor, the gorilla looked like he was trying to protect the boy from panicked bystanders who may have aggravated the tense situation.
'I don't know if the screaming did it or too many people hanging on the edge, if he thought we were coming in, but then he pulled the boy down away further from the big group,' she said.
Harambe later dragged the four-year-old out of the moat before he was fatally shot with a rifle while the boy was still between the animal's legs.
The zoo shot the beloved animal after he dragged the boy through the water and up out of the moat, but many say he was simply trying to protect the child
The zoo's Gorilla World will be closed until further notice. Flowers and commemorative notes were left at a gorilla statue in the zoo on Sunday
The boy's mother wrote a Facebook post saying her son suffered a concussion and a few scrapes. She defended her role as a parent and called the incident an accident
The zoo director confirmed the gorilla did not appear to be attacking the child, but he described it as 'an extremely strong animal in an agitated situation'.
'You're talking about an animal that's over 400 pounds and extremely strong. So no, the child wasn't under attack but all sorts of things could happen in a situation like that. He certainly was at risk,' Maynard told WLWT.
He explained that tranquilizing the gorilla, which could have taken several attempts, would have left the boy in danger since the effect would not have been immediate.
He also said in a statement released Sunday: 'The impact from the dart could agitate the animal and cause the situation to get much worse.
'We are heartbroken about losing Harambe, but a child's life was in danger and a quick decision had to be made.'
He supported the zoo's dangerous animal response team for their decision to kill Harambe, and said: 'They made a tough choice and they made the right choice because they saved that little boy's life.'
But Ian Redmond, the chairman of the Gorilla Organization, told CNN: 'When gorilla or other apes have things they shouldn't have, keepers will negotiate with them, bring food, their favorite treats, pineapple or some kind of fruit that they don't know and negotiate with them.'
Primatologist Julia Gallucci said: 'The gorilla enclosure should have been surrounded by a secondary barrier between the humans and the animals to prevent exactly this type of incident.'
Outraged animal lovers took to social media declaring the western lowland gorilla's life was unnecessarily taken, and more than 4,000 have already joined the Facebook group Justice for Harambe.
Many are placing the blame squarely on the boy's parents.
A vigil for Harambe is being held outside the Cincinnati Zoo today, but the organizer said it is not a protest against the zoo
Jerry Stones, who worked at the Gladys Porter Zoo, in Bronwsville, Texas, where Harambe was raised, said: 'It tore me a new one. An old man can cry, too. He was a special guy in my life. It's a sad day for us'
One Twitter user wrote: 'So a beautiful, innocent gorilla has to die because neglectful parents can't control their kids? Mankind sucks :( #Harambe #CincinnatiZoo'
Another user Chris Dasauchoit tweeted: 'Beautiful animals sadly paying for utter human stupidity and negligence with their lives. #Harame #CincinnatiZoo.'
Police said prosecutors could choose to indict the parents, but Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen Saunders said he was not aware of any intention to do so.
Michelle Gregg, the mother of the boy, posted a message on Facebook saying: 'I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers today. What started off as a wonderful day turned into a scary one.
'For those of you that have seen the news or been on social media that was my son that fell in the gorilla exhibit at the zoo. God protected my child until the authorities were able to get to him.
'My son is safe and was able to walk away with a concussion and a few scrapes... no broken bones or internal injuries.
'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. Accidents happen but I am thankful that the right people were in the right place today.'
Brittany Nicely (left and right) said she tried to stop the child from going into the enclosure but couldn't grab him in time. She then tried to calm the boy's mother has the chaos unfolded
The small child said he wanted to get in the water before the incident, to which the mother, who was also watching several other children, replied: 'No, you're not, no, you're not,' according to one witness
Some said Harambe appeared to be guarding and defending the boy, but video footage also showed him dragging the four-year-old in the water
The zoo celebrated Harambe's birthday on Friday, just one the day before he died (left). His death has sparked an out pour of emotions, with many calling it a 'murder' and 'senseless death' (right)
The family released a statement on Sunday saying they had taken their boy home from the hospital.
It read: 'We are so thankful to the Lord that our child is safe. He is home and doing just fine. We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff.
'We know that this was a very difficult decision for them, and that they are grieving the loss of their gorilla. We hope that you will respect our privacy at this time.'
Deidre Lykins was also at the zoo when she saw the boy drop into the enclosure.
She described how Ms Gregg was calling out for her son and had just been next to him when he disappeared.
Then she had to stop her husband from going in to try and rescue him. But she insists Ms Gregg is not at fault.
Many are placing the blame squarely on the parents of a four-year-old boy
She wrote on Facebook: 'This was an open exhibit! Which means the only thing separating you from the gorillas, is a 15 ish foot drop and a moat and some bushes!
'This mother was not negligent and the zoo did an awesome job handling the situation! Especially since that had never happened before!
'Thankful for the zoo and their attempts and my thoughts and prayers goes out to this boy, his mother and his family.'
More than 115,000 people have already signed a Change.org petition calling for the boy's parents to be 'held accountable for their actions of not supervising their child' - and slamming the zoo for putting Harambe down.
Zoo director Thane Maynard supported the response team's decision to put down the gorilla, but many disagreed. More than 1,000 people have already joined the Facebook group Justice for Harambe
Harambe (right) was raised at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas (left) before he was moved to Cincinnati in 2014. He is a western lowland gorilla, which the World Wildlife Fund deemed critically endangered
Zoo director Maynard noted it was the first time the team had killed a zoo animal in such an emergency situation, and he called it 'a very sad day'.
He said said in a statement: 'The Zoo security team's quick response saved the child's life.
'We are all devastated that this tragic accident resulted in the death of a critically-endangered gorilla. This is a huge loss for the Zoo family and the gorilla population worldwide.'
Jerry Stones, who worked at the Gladys Porter Zoo, in Bronwsville, Texas, where Harambe lived before he was transferred in 2014, said he was devastated by the news.
Stones, who raised the gorilla, told the NY Daily News: 'It tore me a new one. An old man can cry, too. He was a special guy in my life. It's a sad day for us.'
He added: 'He grew up to be a pretty, beautiful male. He was very intelligent. His mind was going constantly. He was just such a sharp character.'
Western lowland gorillas are deemed critically endangered by the World Wildlife Fund.
The child was taken to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center with serious injuries following the incident
The area around the gorilla exhibit was closed off on Saturday afternoon as zoo visitors reported hearing screaming.
The zoo is to be open as usual on Sunday but Gorilla World will be closed until further notice.
In March, two curious polar bears at the zoo wandered into a behind-the-scenes service hallway through an open den door, but never left a secondary containment area.
The zoo said the 17-year-old female Berit and the 26-year-old male Little One, entered an 'inappropriate' area but remained contained and were never loose or a threat to the public.
During that incident, zoo officials said staff followed protocols and safely returned the bears to their main holding area within two hours.
MOMENT APE SAVED A TINY BOY WHO FELL INTO A ZOO ENCLOSURE 30 YEARS AGO
It was a story that gripped the nation - a five-year-old British boy who was knocked unconscious when he fell into a zoo's gorilla enclosure and was touchingly protected by a giant male silverback named Jambo, who stood guard as the pack of apes circled.
Earlier this year, Levan Merritt shared his memories with Mail Online of that fateful day thirty years ago when iconic video footage of the incident made headlines around the world while at the Jersey Zoo, now known as Durrell Wildlife Park.
On August 30 1986, Merrit and his family took a trip to a trip to the island of Jersey in the English Channel for a family holiday.
During a family holiday, Levan Merritt slipped and fell 20ft down into the gorilla pit at a zoo located on the island of Jersey in the English Channel
The 7ft tall 18 stone silverback male, Jambo, peered over to look at Levan who lay motionless on the concrete
In the remarkable incident that followed, Jambo stroked his back and protected him from the circling pack
While at the zoo, his father lifted his brother onto his shoulders to get a better look at the majestic animals, and Merritt decided to follow suit by clambering up the wall.
In the terrifying moment that followed, he slipped and fell 20 feet into the pit, snapping his arm and fracturing his skull in the process.
As he lay motionless on the ground, a 7ft tall 18 stone silverback male - called Jambo - slowly approached him.
As his family and a crowd of onlookers watched on in horror, Jambo reached out and gently stroked Levan's back.
Jambo then stood protectively over Levan, as he lay unconscious on the floor after the nasty fall
The gorilla stood guard over Levan when he was unconscious, placing himself between the boy and the other gorillas in a protective gesture.
After a nerve-jangling minute, Levan began to regain consciousness and started to cry.
As his family screamed at him to remain still, his sobs caused the gorillas to retreat in panic and Jambo led them into the house in the pen.
But when the gate was closing, a younger gorilla called Hobbit rushed out, at which point and an ambulanceman and two keepers stepped in and rescued Levan in a dramatic escape.
Rescuers then hauled Merritt up on a stretcher and he was airlifted to hospital.
Levan's family screamed at him to remain still as he started to stir - his cries scared the gorillas away.