An Open Letter to the Greater Cincinnati Community from Director Thane Maynard

Posted June 16, 2016

On behalf of everybody involved with the Cincinnati Zoo I want to thank our local community for the caring concern you have shown since the tragic death of Harambe.

In this ever-connected, social media age, it seems that everybody, everywhere learned of our tragedy on the day it happened.  This opened up a typhoon of international criticism and finger pointing the likes of which I had never experienced before.

But here in our community the response has been more level headed.  We have heard from many thousands of people from all around southwest Ohio, northern Kentucky, and southeast Indiana, expressing their sadness for our loss, and heartfelt concern for the wellbeing of both the zookeepers who knew Harambe best, and the other gorillas in his troop.  In my job I talk to people for a living, but I have never talked with so many people, most of whom I didn’t know before, as I have in the last two weeks.  And the common themes of our discussions are sadness, concern, and their love of animals and of the Cincinnati Zoo.  I have met people who are old enough to remember seeing Susie the gorilla 60 years ago; people who have been family members of the zoo for decades; and people who became veterinarians or wildlife biologists as a result of going to zoo summer camps when they were growing up in Cincinnati.

Harambe will not be forgotten.  And we will work to make sure that his death will not be in vain.

The Cincinnati Zoo is redoubling our efforts in gorilla conservation in Africa.  For 15 years we have partnered with Congolese conservationists and the Wildlife Conservation Society to protect gorillas in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo.  The ongoing Mbeli Bai Research Program conducted in the park is the longest running behavioral study of lowland gorillas anywhere, and is contributing to the understanding of what it will take to protect gorillas throughout their range in west and central Africa.

Of course, conservation needs a bigger fan base, and zoos play the leading role in engaging the public with wildlife.  Zoos make a difference in the lives of animals and people, every day, here in Cincinnati and all around the world.   At the Cincinnati Zoo we inspire our 1.6 million visitors to love animals and care about protecting species across the globe.

We also are building a giant new indoor viewing area for our gorillas, which will nearly double the size of their exhibit, and make it possible for visitors to see gorillas every day, even in the winter.  This new facility will allow us to exhibit more gorillas and do an even better job with their husbandry and breeding.  So, the Cincinnati Zoo is more committed than ever to gorillas, and we will continue to work with other accredited zoos to make sure there will be gorillas here and in the wild a century from now.

We greatly appreciate the support we have been shown by the Greater Cincinnati community.  You can sure tell who your friends are when the chips are down.

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