How can I help gorillas?
Since the tragic death of Harambe on May 28, 2016, thousands of people have asked how they can help gorillas in the wild.

harambe2A message from Zoo Director Thane Maynard, “This is a very emotional time at the Cincinnati Zoo.  It is a big loss to the Cincinnati Zoo. Harambe was one of our most magnificent animals; he is a critically endangered species. We’re one of the key players in gorilla breeding in zoos & conservation. Everybody at the Zoo feels the loss.”

We’d like to thank all of our members and the Cincinnati community at large for their support through this time. The support from the public, experts, Zoo directors and the Zoo community is also deeply appreciated.

Thane’s Letter to Community 


FAQ

What happened at Gorilla World on May 28, 2016? 

On Saturday, May 28, 2016, a young boy climbed over the public barrier at Gorilla World, made his way through a secondary barrier of bushes, and dropped into the moat. Over 43 million people have safely enjoyed the Cincinnati Zoo’s Gorilla World exhibit without incident in the 38 years that it’s been open. This is the first and only time that a visitor has entered an exhibit containing animals at the Zoo. This breach resulted in the loss of Harambe, a beloved and endangered gorilla.

How are the other gorillas?

Harambe was brought to the Cincinnati Zoo to learn from the socially-savvy girls in his group. The goal was for Chewie and Mara, 20-year-old half sisters, to help Harambe transition from teenager to well-balanced silverback.  They were selected for this because they are self-assured, confident females.  They are doing fine.  Eating and behaving normally.

Cincinnati Zoo’s other gorillas, a family group of eight gorillas that includes three little ones and is headed by silverback Jomo, continues to follow their normal routine.

Are you getting a new silverback to live with Chewie and Mara?

Chewie and Mara are half sisters, born one month apart, and are comfortable living together in their small social group. When Harambe joined them, the goal was for the socially-saavy females to help the teenage silverback transition into adulthood. He most likely would have been paired with other females for breeding.   The placement of all gorillas, including Chewie & Mara, in AZA-accredited Zoos will be discussed at the gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP) master planning session later this year.

What are you doing with Harambe’s remains?

All animals that die at the Cincinnati Zoo, including Harambe, are brought to an on-site pathology lab for a thorough necropsy – a medical examination performed by Zoo veterinarians.  Tissue samples, and in some cases skeletal parts, that might be important for research or education are preserved.

The Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) was able to cryopreserve a sample of Harambe’s sperm using a procedure called post-mortem gamete rescue. CREW frequently uses this technique to preserve valuable genetics of various threatened and endangered wildlife species following the death of an individual. The samples will be stored in liquid nitrogen at -320 degrees Fahrenheit.

Why didn’t the Zoo use a non-lethal option? 

  • We did. A primate keeper called the gorillas out of the exhibit, using verbal commands and food. The two female gorillas responded as they are trained to do and left the exhibit. Harambe did not.
  • Shooting Harambe with a tranquilizer was not an option. Tranquilizers do not take effect for several minutes and the child was in imminent danger.
  • On top of that, the impact from the dart could agitate the animal and cause the situation to get much worse.

Zoo staff and Cincinnati Fire Department (CFD) were the first responders on the scene. According to a CFD incident report, Zoo staff, and other witnesses, the gorilla was repeatedly violently dragging the child across the exhibit. Minutes later, the Zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team arrived and made the difficult decision to put the gorilla down to save the child.

We are heartbroken about losing Harambe, but a child’s life was in danger and Zoo staff made the proper decision to save the child.

Was the barrier safe?

Yes, the previous barrier was safe. Over 43 million people have safely enjoyed the Cincinnati Zoo’s Gorilla World exhibit without incident in the 38 years that it’s been open. The previous barrier passed multiple inspections by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and adhered to federal safety guidelines.   Nevertheless, the Cincinnati Zoo decided to install a new public barrier to reassure the public and visitors. The new barrier railing is 42” high with solid wood beams at the top and on the bottom and knotted rope netting.

How do you know that Harambe was going to hurt the child? 

No one can know for sure. Harambe was a powerful 450-pound gorilla, who could have severely injured the child in an instant, even if he was not intending to. With the child in the exhibit, Harambe did not respond to commands to leave the exhibit. Trained professionals — Cincinnati Fire Department personnel and Zoo staff — witnessed Harambe repeatedly violently dragging the child across the exhibit. Zoo staff also observed that Harambe was agitated and excited. Zoo staff properly determined that the child was in imminent danger and acted according to their training. This was not a decision made easily or lightly by Zoo staff, who cared for Harambe every day and feel his loss deeply.

When will Gorilla World reopen?

Gorilla World reopened June 7, 2016.

Will you continue with the gorilla expansion project?

Yes. Learn more about the Gorilla Expansion Project here.

How can I help gorillas? 

Since the tragic death of Harambe on May 28, 2016, thousands of people have asked how they can help gorillas in the wild.  As a result, the Cincinnati Zoo is redoubling its efforts to support gorilla conservation and encouraging others to join us.

About Harambe

About Harambe

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden family is in mourning the death of 17-year-old gorilla Harambe. Harambe was a Western lowland gorilla from the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, TX. He was over 420 lbs. Gorillas have a big upper body and small lower body unlike humans. Their arms are as big as our legs. A male gorilla has the strength of up to eight men. His nickname was “handsome Harambe.” He was smart and very easy to train for medical procedures. Keepers say that he demonstrated intelligence and curiosity, using sticks and things to reach for items outside his grasp.

Harambe was placed in a social group with two 20-year-old half sisters, “Chewie” and “Mara.” A typical gorilla group includes one silverback male and several females.  Harambe’s group did not have a breeding recommendation, but they were together for social interaction and companionship.  Chewie and Mara are self-assured, confident females. They are both doing fine and eating and behaving normally.

There’s a future: the Zoo’s Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) was able to cryopreserve a sample of Harambe’s sperm using a procedure called post-mortem gamete rescue. CREW frequently uses this technique to preserve valuable genetics of various threatened and endangered wildlife species following the death of an individual. The samples will be stored in liquid nitrogen at -320 degrees Fahrenheit.

Talking to Children About Harambe

How to talk to children about Harambe

Best Practices for Discussing Death with children

  • Be Honest – Young children are especially good at reading our behavior. They know, through our body language and other non-verbal cues, when we are uncomfortable with a question, evading a question or telling and untruth. It may be very difficult, since discussing death and dying is generally taboo in our society, but the best thing to do is be very honest in all of your responses. The unintended consequence, if we are not honest, is that we send the message that death should not be discussed, which isn’t healthy behavior. We should encourage children to ask questions and talk about their concerns about death. However, we need to make sure our responses are age appropriate.
    • Developmental Stages of Understanding Death – A General Guide
      • Preschool children mostly see death as temporary, reversible and impersonal. In stories they read or watch characters will often suddenly rise up alive again after being totally destroyed. It’s not surprising they don’t understand, yet it is appropriate for their age level to think this way.
      • Between the ages of five and nine, most children are beginning to see that all living things eventually die and that death is final. They tend to not relate it to themselves and consider the idea that they can escape it. They may associate images with death, such as a skeleton. Some children have nightmares about them.
      • From nine through to adolescence, children to begin to understand fully that death is irreversible and that they too will die some day. (Taken from the Child Development Institute)
  • Ask the child for clarification if their question is not direct and clear. It is entirely possible that they may not be asking about Harambe at all. The key here is not to assume – just because Harambe’s death is a recent event – that this is what they are asking about. There is another benefit to this method – it buys you a little time to think!
  • When responding be very clear and brief. Keep your response to the point. Especially with young children, giving overly complicated or drawn out messages can lead to them tuning out and missing the message. Don’t be afraid of there being silence in the conversation. It may take a while for the child to process what you just shard with them. Also, don’t be afraid of the follow up questions that may follow.
  • Admit it when you don’t have all the answers – children respond very well to an adult that openly admits that they don’t have all the answers. It also builds trust between you and the child.
  • When having a conversation directly with a child, get down on the child’s level, speak in gentle tones and look them in the eye when speaking. Getting on their level equalizes the size difference a bit.
  • If a child (or an adult) expresses sadness acknowledge their sadness and simply express care and understanding. It is also perfectly fine to share your own sadness with them and be vulnerable. This kind of exchange between people can build tremendous trust – even between relative strangers – no matter their age.

Honoring Harambe: How to help gorillas

Honoring Harambe: How to help gorillas

Since the tragic death of Harambe May 28, 2016, thousands of people have asked how they can help gorillas in the wild.  As a result, the Cincinnati Zoo is redoubling its efforts to support gorilla conservation and encouraging others to join us.

Gorilla Conservation

Gorilla Conservation

The Zoo is home to ten western lowland gorillas. There are approximately 350 gorillas in 51 zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for this species. Only 230 of the thousands of zoos and sanctuaries in the United States meet AZA’s rigorous accreditation standards.

Western lowland gorillas are critically-endangered in the wild, with less than 175,000 individuals. Due primarily to habitat destruction caused by logging, mineral mining and agricultural expansion, wild gorilla numbers continue to shrink. More about how Cincinnati Zoo supports gorilla conservation.