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Why the Cincinnati Gorilla’s Death Has Conservationists Upset

2 minute read

Not all animals are created equal in the conservation world. That’s part of why some groups are upset over the shooting of a gorilla in Cincinnati last weekend after a young boy fell into the enclosure.

The gorilla, known as Harambe, belonged to a sub-species known as western lowland gorilla that has been classified as critically endangered by wildlife groups. Only about 100,000 of the animals remain in the tropical forest of central Africa, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Hunting for use as food, medicine and other purposes rank as the top threats facing the species. Approximately 5% of the population is killed each year in the North East Congo where the species is prevalent, according to WWF. And, like many other species across the globe, western lowland gorillas face habitat loss as human logging activities destroy forests and famers increasingly convert land for agriculture.

This particular type of gorilla is also a top choice at zoos across the country. But many conversation groups say this incident shows why gorillas should be protected in the wild, not in captivity.

“The only way to eliminate risk is to not have certain animals in zoos in the first place,” said Adam M. Roberts, CEO of animal welfare group Born Free USA in a statement. “Gorillas should be protected in Africa where they belong.”


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Write to Justin Worland at justin.worland@time.com