After a 17-year-old gorilla was shot dead during the rescue of a 3-year-old boy who fell at the Cincinnati Zoo on Saturday, many flashed back to other incidents where children ended up face to face with gorillas.
In the Cincinnati Zoo incident, videos recorded by a bystander show Harambe holding and dragging him through a moat. The zoo said it was a life-threatening decision and the difficult decision to shoot the gorilla was made.
Video from WGN-TV, which you can watch above, shows what happened during a similar incident at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois in 1996.
A 3-year-old boy fell 20 feet into an enclosure with Binti Jua, a female gorilla, the news station reported. The boy also slipped away from his mother and climbed through a barrier, like in the Cincinnati Zoo incident.
The 8-year-old gorilla lifted the boy up and held him for several minutes before carrying him to safety. She also carried her own 17-month-old baby, Koola, on her back. The gorilla was not harmed and continues to live at the Brookfield Zoo, WGN reports.
The boy was never publicly identified. He suffered a broken hand and cuts to the face, and was hospitalized for four days.
Ten years earlier, in September 1986, a British boy named Levan Merritt fell into a gorilla pit at the Durrell Wildlife Park on Jersey island in the English Channel. You can watch video of that incident below:
Merrit’s father had lifted the boy onto his shoulders to get a better look at the gorillas below. He fell nearly 20 feet and was knocked unconscious. Onlookers feared gorillas would harm the boy, but one named Jambo stood over him and protected him until he was rescued.
After the Cincinnati Zoo incident, Merritt told the Sun the zoo made the right choice in shooting Harambe:
I know what it’s like to come face to face with an enormous gorilla — absolutely terrifying. But my experience taught me they are also incredibly caring. Watching the American video brought it all back. I felt for the boy but also felt for the gorilla. Did they have to kill it? Well, he wouldn’t have known his own strength compared to a child, having lived in captivity and never touched a human infant. And he does grab the boy and drags him into the water at a terrifying speed. The four-year-old is tiny and could easily have been injured. So they made the correct decision to save the boy’s life.
Merritt later returned to the zoo and developed a bond with Jambo.