Slain gorilla tried to protect child, Florida primate expert says

The shooting death of a Cincinnati Zoo gorilla after a boy fell into its enclosure has prompted a Florida primate expert to say that the animal was only trying to protect the child, not hurt it.

Debbie Cobb told WFLA that the video footage of the incident is not as violent as most perceive it to be.

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“I can tell you what you saw in the video footage is actually a gorilla taking a stance trying to protect the baby when he heard all the screaming up above,” she said. “If he wanted to hurt the baby, he would have done that in the first few minutes.”

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Cobb’s grandparents founded the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor, and she grew up around the animals. She said the gorilla’s actions translated to interacting or being parental rather than showing force.

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"They'll put their shoulders up, and you'll see the hair. They'll actually make their hair on their head stand up," Cobb said. "That means they're on guard. What's going on? Something's wrong."

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She said a lot of what happened when the gorilla dragged the child was indicative of how gorillas play in the wild. “He didn’t pull him by his hair or by his neck. He knew good and well that was attached to the child and he intentionally grabbed his pants to take him with him. That’s not an animal trying to hurt or kill anything,” she said.

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Cobb told WFLA that she was "devastated" by the zoo's decision to kill the animal, which has been defended by the zoo's director and famed animal handler Jack Hanna.