The mother of the 4-year-old boy who slipped into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo on Saturday – which led to the animal being shot dead – has hit back against online critics who are criticizing her parenting.
Michelle Gregg defended herself in a now-deleted Facebook post, writing: "God protected my child until the authorities were able to get to him. My son is safe and was able to walk away with a concussion and a few scrapes... no broken bones or internal injuries."
Gregg continued, "As a society we are quick to judge how a parent could take their eyes off of their child and if anyone knows me I keep a tight watch on my kids. Accidents happen..."
Social media users slammed Gregg for allegedly not paying close enough attention to her son, writing that she was responsible for the death of Harambe, the 17-year-old, 450-pound male Western Lowland gorilla.
#harambe was killed because of the stupid and their irresponsible parenting...their picture should be made public.â Liberate Illinois (@liberateIL) May 29, 2016
Gregg was not the only one to face negative commentary online after the incident – which was captured on video. The zoo released a statement, Saturday, from park director Thane Maynard saying, "We are heartbroken about losing Harambe, but a child's life was in danger and a quick decision had to be made by our Dangerous Animal Response Team."
The zoo said that Harambe was violently dragging and throwing the little boy. Maynard explained that tranquilizing Harambe was not an option because "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."
Many have questioned why an alternative solution was not used.
"The little boy, once he fell, I don't think the gorilla even knew that he was in there until he heard him splashing in the water," onlooker Brittany Nicely told ABC News, continuing, "The gorilla rushed the boy, but did not hit the boy. He almost was guarding the boy, was protecting him... The gorilla was not, in my eyes being harmful."
Animal lovers took to social media to issue their opinions, with one user writing, "An endangered animal should not have had to pay with its life because of a lack of supervision #CincinnatiZoo #Harambe."
In response, Jack Hanna, the director emeritus of Ohio's Columbus Zoo, told Good Morning America of Harambe, "I've seen him take a green coconut, which you can't bust open with a sledgehammer and squish it like this. You're dealing with either human life or animal life here. So what is the decision? I think it's very simple to figure that out."
Hanna continued, "I can tell you now, that there's no doubt in my mind the child would not be here today if they hadn't made that decision."
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Animal activists have started an online petition called "Justice for Harambe." If the petition reaches 150,000 signatures, it will be sent to the Cincinnati Zoo, Hamilton County Child Protection Services and Cincinnati Police Department to encourage action against Gregg.