Zoo officials in Cincinnati say they acted out of concern for the safety of a four-year-old boy who fell into a gorilla enclosure.  An endangered 17-year-old lowland gorilla was shot and killed after spending about 10 minutes with the boy.

In response 143,000 people have signed a Facebook petition seeking "Justice for Harambe" and blaming the boy's parents for allowing him to get too close to the enclosure. They're looking for police and child protective services to get involved in the case.

Animal rights activists set up a vigil at the zoo in memory of the killed gorilla. Flowers and sympathy cards were left outside the gorilla exhibit.

The mother of the boy released a statement on Sunday:

"We are so thankful to the Lord that our child is safe. He is home and doing just fine. We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff. We know that this was a very difficult decision for them, and that they are grieving the loss of their gorilla. We hope that you will respect our privacy at this time."

 

Although it appeared from the video that the gorilla seemed to be protecting the boy, zoo officials were concerned about the possibility that things could escalate quickly and felt the boy's life was in danger.  And in response to questions of why a tranquilizer gun wasn't used instead, they said it would likely irritate the gorilla.

One witness took issue with the critics.  He said he was there, he saw it.  It was the life of the boy or the gorilla.

The boy was treated for minor injuries and released after a few hours.