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Cincinnati Zoo Director Explains Why Gorilla Was Killed Instead of Tranquilized

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Updated: | Originally published: ;

The director of the Cincinnati Zoo—where a gorilla was shot dead Saturday to protect a three-year-old boy who fell into the enclosure—defended the zoo’s actions on Monday, amid criticism from animal rights advocates.

Thane Maynard said at a press conference on Monday that the 420-pound gorilla, named Harambe, was agitated and disoriented and acting erratically during the incident, the Associated Press reported. Maynard also explained why a tranquilizer could not have been used.

“The idea of waiting and shooting it with a hypodermic was not a good idea,” Maynard said at the press conference, People reported. “That would have definitely created alarm in the male gorilla. When you dart an animal, anesthetic doesn’t work in one second, it works over a period of a few minutes to 10 minutes. The risk was due to the power of that animal.”

The family of the toddler—who have also faced criticism for not watching the boy closely enough—thanked zoo employees for making “a very difficult decision.” And at a vigil on Monday, animal advocates said they wanted to remember Harambe, not protest the zoo.

“We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff,” the family’s statement said. “We know that this was a very difficult decision for them, and that they are grieving the loss of their gorilla.”

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Write to Katie Reilly at Katie.Reilly@time.com