Parents, zoo scolded after gorilla shooting

(Facebook / Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden)
(Facebook / Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden)

Blame for the death of a gorilla has been placed squarely at the feet of a Cincinnati zoo and parents of the 4-year-old who crawled through a barrier and inside the animal's enclosure.

Harambe, a critically-endangered silverback gorilla, was shot dead to protect the young boy just a day after turning 17. Cellphone footage showed him growing agitated and aggressively dragging the boy through water in his enclosure before he was killed.

A statement from the boy's family released today said the boy had returned home and was doing fine -- but global outrage over Harambe's death has exploded into life, with many expressing indignation over how such an incident was able to occur.

An online petition launched today has called for the boy's parents "to be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life".

The petition, which has since tallied more than 48,000 signatures, also displays solidarity with the US zoo, saying Harambe's killing was a "last-resort decision" made "in the best interests of keeping the child and the public safe".

It also defends Cincinnati Zoo staff's decision to use a lethal weapon to save the boy, citing an "increased risk of aggression if a tranquilizer was used in such close proximity to a human" as the reason for its use.

However, not everyone is convinced that the zoo can be completely cleared of responsibility. Animal welfare organisation PETA tweeted that a secondary barrier should have been put in place to prevent incidents of this nature.

In a blog on their website, PETA also called out Cincinnati Zoo for its handling of the situation.

"Even though the zoo's director acknowledged that [Harambe] was not attacking the boy, it was believed that a tranquilizer wouldn't work fast enough," PETA author Jennifer O'Connor wrote.

She later wrote that gorillas "don't attack unless they're provoked", and said that zoos such as Cincinnati's "cannot even begin to meet these magnificent animals' complex needs".

Cincinnati zoo's 'Gorilla World' is expected to be closed indefinitely.