NFL star Benjamin Watson believes the Cincinnati Zoo made the right decision after zookeepers killed a 17-year-old western lowland gorilla in order to prevent the animal from killing a 4-year-old boy who fell into its pen on Saturday.
Outrage toward the Cincinnati Zoo has grown considerably since staff shot and killed wothe gorilla on Saturday after a 4-year-old boy somehow accessed the exhibit.
Although the 450-pound endangered gorilla dragged the small child through the mote of its pen, animal rights activists have called on the United States Department of Agriculture to punish the zoo for violating the Animal Welfare Act.
While the killing of the gorilla has caused much controversy, Watson, a tight end for the Baltimore Ravens who frequently takes to social media to comment on current events, did not shy away from issuing his opinion about the ordeal in a message posted to Twitter on Tuesday.
"Sometimes kids are disobedient and run off in the blink of an eye. And sometimes parents are negligent," Watson wrote. "Not sure what transpired at the zoo in Cincinnati but I do know that given the circumstances — a child in the clutch of a gorilla — the zoo authorities made the tough but correct decision to act swiftly and save the child's life, the human life."
Watson added that as long as the barrier blocking off Harambe's exhibit was up to standard, the parents should be held responsible for the situation and be prepared to offer some sort of compensation to the zoo.
"It's sad such a beautiful animal had to die though. Especially one that's endangered and 'minding his own business' in captivity," he wrote. "Assuming the barrier passed standard safety regulations, the parents bear the responsibility for their child's actions and I'd expect them to offer some sort of recompense for the loss."
Zookeepers worldwide have responded to people who've questioned why the zoo did not tranquilize the gorilla by noting that a tranquilizer dart would have agitated the gorilla and the serum takes time have an affect on animals.
Celebrity zookeeper Jack Hanna, the director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, defended the zoo's decision to kill the gorilla.
"When I first saw him jerk that child and go through the water with him, [I wondered] why is he doing that. If you look at the face on this animal and you know about gorillas, that is something you don't want to see from a gorilla, trust me," Hanna told CNN. "I have seen a gorilla, like this one, take a coconut that takes a hatchet to open up, they can squish it like a marshmallow."
"Let's say you are tranquilizing him … here he has a child in his hand and feels that [dart] go off on his bottom, what do you think would happen there? You wouldn't want to see what would happen," he added. "Obviously, the decision that the Cincinnati Zoo made was the only decision. You have human life and you have animal life."
Animal rights activist groups, including the Cincinnati-based Stop Animal Exploitation NOW, believe that the zoo violated the Animal Welfare Act because its barrier for the exhibit was not sufficient enough to keep the child out.
"Yet again, captivity has taken an animal's life," People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals primatologist Julia Gallucci said in a statement. "The gorilla enclosure should have been surrounded by a secondary barrier between the humans and the animals to prevent exactly this type of incident."
A Change.org petition is calling on the zoo, Hamilton County Child Protection Services and the Cincinnati Police Department to hold the child's parents responsible for the death of Harambe. Over 354,000 people have added their names to the petition.
Another online petition launched on Change.org calls on lawmakers to enact "Harambe's law." The law would hold individuals whose negligence leads to the death of an endangered animal criminally and financially responsible. Over 119,000 people have added their names to that petition.