A petition has been launched urging police and zoo authorities to hold the parents of the child who entered a gorilla's enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo - leading to its shooting - responsible for the "senseless death".
Zoo officials shot Harambe, a critically-endangered 17-year-old gorilla, on Saturday after the 4-year-old climbed through a public barrier and fell into the Gorilla World moat.
Zoo officials said they shot the 400lb animal when the situation became “life-threatening” for the child. Harambe had picked the child up and had stayed with him for about 10 minutes.
A petition was launched around 5pm Sunday and within an hour had almost 2,000 signatures. A Facebook page, Justice for Harambe, was also started and has over 3,000 Likes.
The petition detailed what led to the shooting, before laying the blame on the child's parents.
It reads: "This beautiful gorrila lost his life because the boy's parents did not keep their eye on him. If they would of he would have not been able to get inside the enclosure. These parents should be held accountable for their actions of not surpervising their child. Please sign this petition to encourage the Cincinnati Zoo and police department hold them responsible."
Anger has been building online since Harambe's shooting.
"How dare anyone defend the murdering of this innocent animal. It's already out of its own habitat," Jodi Nadeau wrote on the Justice for Harambe Facebook page in a comment echoed by dozens of other animal lovers.
She continued: "The parents are wrong for not watching the child. And I'm upset about the innocent murdering of the animal. The parents should be charged with neglect and animal cruelty."
Patrish Dehler wrote: "I'm angry too. What a waste to kill this beautiful creature. How about the parents or 'watchers' of this kid get a big fine to be paid to the zoo. If you can't control your kids then how about not having any!"
“We are all devastated that this tragic accident resulted in the death of a critically-endangered gorilla.”
He added: “This is a huge loss for the zoo family and the gorilla population worldwide.”
Authorities said the child, who has not been identified, fell 10 to 12 feet.
He was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where he is expected to recover. Hospital officials said they could not release any information on him.
Two female gorillas were also in the enclosure when the boy fell in but zoo officials said only the male remained with the child.
In footage recorded at the scene, the gorilla can be seen standing over the child in a corner of the enclosure for a few moments.
As he makes his way through the water, he stops and pulls the child onto his feet.
At one point a woman can be heard yelling: “Mummy’s right here.”
She later calls out to the boy, saying: “Mummy loves you.”
Maynard said the gorilla did not appear to be attacking the child, but he said the animal was “an extremely strong” and in an agitated situation.
He said tranquilising the gorilla would not have knocked him out immediately, leaving the boy in danger.
Officials said that the zoo will be open tomorrow, but Gorilla World will be closed until further notice.
On Friday, Cincinnati Zoo posted a picture of Harambe on its Facebook page, announcing that it was the gorilla’s 17th birthday.
Harambe was bred in captivity and was moved to Cincinnati in 2015 from the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas.