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Police probe parents of boy rescued from gorilla

01 June 2016, 19:02

Cincinnati - Police say they are investigating the parents of the 3-year-old boy who fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo and had to be rescued by a team that shot the181kg animal, called Harambe, to death.

Authorities said the investigation will look at the parents' actions leading up to the incident - not the operation of the zoo, which is overseen by the US  Department of Agriculture. Police will then confer with prosecutors over whether charges should be filed, said Hamilton county prosecutor Joe Deters.

Minor scrapes

The incident has triggered a furore online, with some saying the boy's mother should be charged with child endangering, while others want the zoo held responsible for the animal's death.

Separately, USDA said it would investigate Saturday's incident for any violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Zoo authorities said the unidentified boy climbed over a 1m high railing, walked through bushes and plunged about5m into a shallow moat. The zoo's dangerous-animal response team killed the gorilla as it dragged the boy through the water, authorities said. The boy had only minor scrapes on his head and knee, according to police.

Ohio State University criminal law professor Ric Simmons said he doubts a charge of child endangering could be proved in this instance, since the offence typically involves leaving a youngster unattended for an extended time, not a case of a child momentarily wandering off.

"The mother was standing next to a zoo exhibit and lost track of her child for perhaps a minute or so," Simons said in an email. "That has happened to almost every parent in the world in a public place."

Boy in danger

The boy's family said he is "doing just fine" at home, and it had no further comment.

Zoo director Thane Maynard said that using tranquilisers on the gorilla would not have knocked the animal out right away, leaving the boy in danger.

Maynard said 17-year-old Harambe was agitated by the commotion from the crowd and was extremely powerful, capable of crushing a coconut in one hand.

He said the zoo remains safe for its 1.6 million annual visitors, but a review is underway to determine whether any improvements can be made.

- AP

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