By Ava-joye Burnett

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s the incredibly scary situation of a child falling into a gorilla exhibit at the zoo. Now there is outrage after officials shot and killed the endangered animal. It’s a worst case scenario zoos around the country hope they never have to deal with.

Ava-joye Burnett has more on how the zoo here trains for a situation like that.

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Maryland zoo officials say they walk the zoo every day to make sure there’s no opening for a potential disaster. That should be standard practice.

The more than 400 pound gorilla known as Harambe was a fan favorite at the zoo in Ohio. But Saturday, when a child somehow fell into the enclosure and into Harambe’s grasp, zoo officials had to shoot and kill the animal. They say the child’s life was in danger.

“When he scaled him up, his head’s banging against the wall as he’s climbing up,” said Kim O’Connor, who witnessed the incident.

The move to kill the gorilla is drawing sharp criticism. Some are asking why a tranquilizer wasn’t used instead.

“That child’s life was in danger and people who question that are Monday morning quarterbacks or second-guessers. They don’t understand: you can’t take a risk with a silverback gorilla,” said Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden Director Thane Maynard.

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The story has gained national attention. Here at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, they practice for a situation like this but hope they never have to use it. That includes daily assessments and emergency drills every quarter.

“There is never a question. Human life is always a priority,” said Mike McClure, Maryland Zoo.

But they also understand why the decision was made to shoot the gorilla in order to save the boy.

“They learn their environment just like we do so the animal is familiar with a certain set of factors in its world every day and when something changes that dramatically, it’s going to be really difficult to predict their actual response to it,” McClure said.

There’s now a petition with more than 100,000 signatures calling for the boy’s mother to be charged for not keeping an eye on the child.

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The boy’s family released a statement saying the boy is doing fine. They also thanked the staff at the zoo for their quick action.

Ava-joye Burnett