CINCINNATI -- A gorilla was killed over the weekend to save the life of a 4-year-old boy who’d tumbled in the endangered animal’s enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Although it was the first incident of its kind at Cincinnati Zoo’s Gorilla World exhibit since it opened in 1978, similar dramatic cases have occurred — but with very different outcomes.
In 1986, a 5-year-old boy named Levan Merritt tumbled into the gorilla enclosure at Jersey Zoo in the UK. Video filmed by a bystander showed Levan lying on the ground, bleeding from the head and unconscious.
In the footage Jambo, a male gorilla, is seen approaching the boy and appears to check on him, extending a hand to stroke his back. When Merritt comes to, wailing, Jambo, seemingly startled by the cries, sets off in a different direction. Zookeepers immediately move in to save the boy.
A decade later, a 3-year-old boy fell nearly 20 feet into the gorilla enclosure at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.
This time, a female gorilla named Binti Jua picked up the unconscious boy, while carrying her own infant on her back, and guarded him from other gorillas.
In an incredible show of maternal care, Binti took him right to a door so that zookeepers could retrieve him.
The boy, who suffered a broken hand and cuts to his face, spent four days in the hospital before he was released, fully recovered, WGHP's sister station WGN reported at the time.