A statement issued by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) said: "Incidents like this are incredibly rare. While it is unfortunate that incidents such as this one unpredictably occur, human safety must come first. WAZA considers culling of animals to be a last resort, but emergency plans were in place and are required in order to save human lives. When a potentially dangerous animal poses a serious and unavoidable threat to human safety, saving human life must come first. However, it is truly regrettable that two animals had to lose their lives due to irresponsible human behavior."
Craig Sholley, vice president of the African Wildlife Foundation, told Discovery News, "A lot of time is spent in designing good, safe exhibits, but It is almost impossible to keep people out of them if they connive to enter."
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PETA and other animal activist groups have repeatedly called for the permanent closure of zoos and aquariums due to animal welfare concerns, but Sholley argues that "zoos play a vital role in conservation" via research, education, fundraising and other efforts.
He has seen the issue from all sides, having worked as a zoo curator and as a researcher in the field with renowned mountain gorilla specialist Dian Fossey (1932–1985), studying the large primates in the wild and spending countless hours around them. He said that gorillas can become habituated to human presence, but "dealing with a frightened, screaming intruder" in a captive setting can understandably lead to an unpredictable response from a gorilla.
Zoo incidents like what happened in Cincinnati and Santiago get lots of attention, but Sholley worries that there is not enough public focus on the bigger picture of gorilla conservation. Although gains have been made in saving the highly endangered mountain gorilla from the brink of extinction, work to conserve lowland gorillas has proven to be much more challenging, he said.
Sholley explained that poaching, diseases like Ebola, loss of habitat and other threats continue to take their toll on gorillas in the wild. Demand for timber and petroleum from Europe and United States can contribute to the threats, especially habitat loss. He argues that instead of blaming others for individual animal losses, we should all consider our own consumption habits and how they could be adversely impacting entire gorilla populations as well as other wildlife.