CINCINNATI – A federal inspection has concluded that the Cincinnati Zoo's barrier to keep the public and gorillas separate wasn't in compliance with standards for housing primates the day a 3-year-old boy slipped into the gorilla exhibit and a gorilla named was fatally shot.
The inspection report states that the zoo's dangerous-animal response team properly followed procedures after zoo visitors called 911 on May 28 to report a child in the gorilla enclosure. A team member concluded the child was in "life-threatening danger." The gorilla was killed to save the boy's life.
The zoo quickly made the barrier taller and used nylon mesh to close any gaps. It says there had been no earlier issues with the barriers, which were found compliant in earlier federal inspections, including in April.
The federal investigation is continuing and could lead to fines or other disciplinary action.
The department's animal welfare arm confirmed that the zoo's barrier system had been considered to be in compliance during earlier inspections.
Agriculture Department spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said the barriers must restrict public contact from the gorillas.
"It became apparent on May 28 that the barrier was no longer effective," Espinosa said via email. "The Cincinnati Zoo took swift and comprehensive corrective action in response."
The Agriculture Department inspectors said in a report dated June 6 that there had been "some slack" in wire cables in the barrier that could have been "manipulated to an eight-inch gap." Beyond the barrier were bushes and other landscaping that was 18 to 24 inches tall, followed by a 15-foot drop-off into a moat.