Jane Goodall: ‘The Gorilla Was Putting an Arm Round the Child’

Nick Ut/AP Photo, YouTube

Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall believes Harambe, the 400-pound gorilla who was shot to protect a 3-year-old boy who fell into the animal’s enclosure, was actually “putting an arm round the child.”

Goodall wrote the following email to Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo, consoling him on the death of Harambe:

Dear Thane,

I feel so sorry for you, having to try to defend something which you may well disapprove of. I tried to see exactly what was happening—it looked as though the gorilla was putting an arm round the child—like the female who rescued and returned the child from the Chicago exhibit.

Anyway, whatever, it is a devastating loss to the zoo, and to the gorillas. How did the others react? Are they allowed to see, and express grief, which seems to be so important.

Feeling for you,


The “female” Goodall mentioned is probably the female gorilla at Illinois’ Brookfield Zoo who picked up a boy when he fell into her enclosure in a 1996 incident.

Kim O’Connor, an eyewitness to Harambe’s interaction with the boy, said that the viral video of the incident didn’t capture the most terrifying moments, like when the gorilla banged the child against a wall.

O’Connor, who supports the zoo’s decision to shoot Harambe, said she came forward with her account in order to challenge those who claim the gorilla was “protecting” the boy.

“I was hoping that people would see that contrary to early reports that led the world to believe that he had not engaged with the gorilla, I needed them to understand there was an engagement,” she explained.


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