Ohio zoo reopening exhibit where boy fell, gorilla was shot

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters points to an image of the moat wall of the Gorilla World enclosure as he speaks to members of the media during a news conference on an incident involving a child who was hurt after circumventing its barriers and fell into the moat, Monday, June 6, 2016, in Cincinnati. A gorilla named Harambe was killed by a special zoo response team on Saturday, May 28, after concluding the 3-year-old boy's life was in danger. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Cincinnati Zoo plans to reopen its gorilla exhibit Tuesday with a higher, reinforced barrier installed after a young boy got into the exhibit and was dragged by a 400-pound gorilla, which was then shot and killed.

The exhibit’s reopening comes a day after Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said he would not bring charges against the boy’s mother, who was tending to another child when her 3-year-old “just scampered off” as children sometimes do.

Deters said he was glad for the improvements to the exhibit.

The barrier, which had passed repeated inspections by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, will now be 42 inches high — a half-foot taller than before — with solid wood beams at the top and bottom, plus knotted rope netting at the bottom, zoo spokeswoman Michelle Curley said.

The boy apparently climbed over the previous barrier May 28, made his way through some bushes and fell about 15 feet into a shallow moat. A special response team shot the agitated, 17-year-old gorilla to protect the boy, who was treated for scrapes.

The killing of the gorilla, a male named Harambe, set off a torrent of criticism online. Some commenters vilified the zoo for shooting the animal, while others blamed the mother for not watching her child more closely.

In a statement, the family said Deters’ decision not to seek charges “is one more step in allowing us to put this tragic episode behind us.”

Deters said he has been a bit surprised by the reaction to the gorilla’s death. He said the zoo suffered a great loss, “but it’s still an animal. It does not equate human life, and they felt that this boy’s life was in jeopardy, and they made the painful choice to do what they did.”

The zoo’s actions will be reviewed separately by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. An animal protection group has urged that the zoo be fined.

The zoo says its 10 remaining gorillas are doing well. Two are 20-year-old females that were grouped with Harambe. The others are a family group of eight, led by a silverback named Jomo.

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