The Gorilla Organization's (TGO) Jillian Miller has lamented the shooting of a rare gorilla in Cincinnati, saying that the animal was not harming the four-year-old boy who fell into its enclosure.
In a story which has made headlines around the world, the child crawled through the fence and tumbled into the exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in Ohio.
While the boy was not seriously injured by the fall, a 17-year-old male western lowland gorilla called Harambe dragged him around the enclosure for around 10 minutes before being shot dead by the zoo's dangerous animal response team.
Use of tranquilizers was ruled out because of the time it would take for the drug to kick in, and the attendant potential risk to the child.
While not showing the shooting, a video showing the interaction between the gorilla and the boy has been circulating online.
"I've looked at it over and over again," Miller, the executive director for TGO, told Penny Smith.
"Obviously we're not seeing the whole incident, but even the head of the zoo said the gorilla wasn't attacking the child.
"I just think this is a terribly sad story. Maybe the zoo had no alternative. They couldn't risk the child's life, but it seems to me [Harambe] wasn't actually hurting the child."
Social media users have been quick to place the blame on the child's parents, but Miller pointed out how the zoo also has a share of the responsibility.
"We're not in a position to blame, we weren't there," she added. "But there is a big ethical question over whether apes should be kept in these small areas for human entertainment.
"The zoo acknowledged they can be dangerous animals, so why on earth could a four-year-old child get through the fence and fall in there anyway?
"It's a horrible mess where nobody wins. If only there had been another way."