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Mother of toddler who fell into zoo’s gorilla exhibit blasted by critics on social media

By WITW Staff on May 31, 2016

An Ohio woman was lambasted on social media after her 4-year-old son somehow made it into a gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo on Saturday, leading zoo officials to fatally shoot an endangered gorilla after it was seen dragging the toddler through the water in the exhibit. The fatal shooting of Harambe, a 17-year-old endangered silverback gorilla, prompted an immediate backlash against zoo officials, whom critics say were too quick to kill the gorilla. The zoo director on Tuesday defended its officials’ actions. The harrowing incident was captured on cellphone video, which you can watch below.

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The mother of the toddler who fell into the gorilla pen (he reportedly suffered only minor injuries) was also in the crosshairs of withering criticism from social media users. Neither she nor the toddler who fell into the gorilla exhibit nor the father of the child has been identified by authorities yet, but the mother reportedly responded to the tsunami of hate-filled criticism, much of which blamed her “bad parenting” for the gorilla’s death with a since-deleted Facebook post. “God protected my child until the authorities were able to get to him,” she reportedly wrote in the post. “My son is safe and was able to walk away with a concussion and a few scrapes … no broken bones or internal injuries. As a society we are quick to judge how a parent could take their eyes off of their child and if anyone knows me I keep a tight watch on my kids.”

Intense criticism continued, however, with some experts going on television to lecture the boy’s mother. “Zoos aren’t your babysitter,” animal expert Jeff Corwin told a local TV station. “Take a break from the cellphone and the selfie stick and the texting. Connect with your children. Be responsible for your children. I don’t think this happened in seconds or minutes. I think this took time, for this kid, for this little boy to find himself in this situation.” Harsh though it may have been, Corwin’s remarks were nothing compared to the invective that continued being hurled online — in some cases at people who shared the reported name of the mother, but otherwise had no connection to the incident. For instance, men and women alike posted extreme messages calling her “scum,” “a really bad mother” and a “f***ing killer” on her Facebook page. “That animal is more important than your s*** kid,” one message railed, while another suggested “u should’ve been shot.”

One witness wrote in a Facebook post that “the mother was not negligent” and that the zoo responded in a swift and “awesome” manner to deal with the frightening situation. In her post that was taken down, the mother reportedly wrote, “accidents happen.”

Eventually, the mother’s Facebook page had to be deleted, and the scores of angry critics then tracked down the Facebook page of her employer, where the angry words continued. That page was also shut down as a result of the uproar and police said they are monitoring the situation for threats.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.