Plans for Cincinnati Zoo gorilla exhibit expansion will move ahead

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The plant expansion of the grill exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo will move forward, zoo officials said.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A planned expansion of the gorilla exhibit will move ahead after the death of rare, male gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

Harambe, a 400-pound silverback, was killed Saturday after it dragged a 3-year-old boy who'd crawled through a barrier and fell into the Gorilla World enclosure. The zoo's Dangerous Animal Response Team decided to fire a fatal gunshot at the gorilla because the child was in a "life-threatening situation," zoo director Thane Maynard said.

It was the first time the specialized team has had to put down in animal in the institution’s 143-year history, he said.

The child climbed over a 3-foot-tall railing and walked through an area of bushes about 4 feet deep before falling about 15 feet into a moat of water inside the exhibit.

Zoo staff are evaluating Gorilla World, Maynard said, but he didn't guarantee anything would change at the exhibit. And plans to double the size of Gorilla World are still underway.

“That’s important for our long-term breeding program and gorilla conservation,” Maynard said.

PHOTOS: Gorilla killed after child enters his habitat

Harambe was killed one day after his 17th birthday, meaning he’d not yet reached breeding maturity. The Cincinnati Zoo is a key player in gorilla breeding and conservation, and Maynard said reproductive biologists had collected viable sperm from Harambe to help his endangered species in its genetic diversity.

“It’s not the end of his gene pool,” he said. “In addition, he and his lineage are part of an ongoing breeding program.”

Maynard said the zoo had received messages of support and condolences from around the world, including from other zoo directors and gorilla experts.

A spokesman for Jane Goodall, the famed primatologist, said she had “a private conversation” with Maynard, who said she expressed her sympathy.

MORE: Jack Hanna on Cincinnati Zoo gorilla shooting

The Associated Press and WCPO 9 On Your Side contributed to this report.