After report, family of boy in gorilla pen thanks zoo again

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CINCINNATI (AP) — The family of the 3-year-old boy who slipped into a gorilla exhibit expressed appreciation to the Cincinnati Zoo again in the aftermath of a federal report that found the exhibit hadn't been in compliance with standards.

The zoo's dangerous-animal response team concluded the boy's life was in danger in May and fatally shot an endangered gorilla named Harambe, which led to mourning and criticism around the globe.

In a statement, the boy's relatives say the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection findings first reported Thursday doesn't change anything for them.

"We are thankful to the Lord that our child is safe and well," said the statement released by Gail Myers, spokeswoman for the family. "We very much appreciate the quick actions by the Cincinnati Zoo staff, and mourn with them the loss of Harambe."

The boy was treated at a hospital and released that same evening.

U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said although the zoo barrier previously passed inspections, including in April, the May 28 breach showed it was no longer effective in restricting contact between the public and the gorillas. She said the zoo took quick and comprehensive corrective action in making the barrier taller and adding nylon mesh.

The federal inspection found that the zoo's dangerous-animal response team properly followed procedures after the boy got through fencing and wound up in the exhibit's moat. Harambe made contact with the boy, dragging him by the leg in the shallow moat water and again on the ground, the report said.

The zoo said it remains committed "to the well-being of the resident animals and the safety of those inspired to view and conserve them."

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums said in a statement that it believes the Cincinnati Zoo is "meeting the highest standards of animal care and welfare, while also providing a safe and educational environment for their guests."

However, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals Foundation said it hopes people will remember the 17-year-old western lowland gorilla's death, calling it "as preventable as it was tragic."


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