Texas Zookeeper Who Raised Harambe Mourns Death of Gorilla: 'It's Like Losing a Family Member'


Texas Zookeeper Who Raised Harambe Mourns Death of Gorilla

Jason Hoekema/The Brownsville Herald via AP

06/01/2016 AT 01:20 AM EDT

Jerry Stones, a Texas zookeeper who had the responsibility of raising recently killed Harambe, is mourning the death of the 400-pound silverback gorilla.

In a press conference with ABC News, Stones, who now works as the facilities director for the Gladys porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, compares the death of the animal to the death of family.

“It’s like losing a family member. It tore me up. I was very close to him. His whole life I was with,” Stones said during the conference, although he added that he hopes a recently set up Harambe Fund will help the species. “This is a chance for Harambe to help his family, even after his death. We’re hoping that people with a negative attitude or a bunch of anger can turn that anger inward and help him.”

Describing his experiences with Harambe when the gorilla was young, Stones told ABC how caring for the infant primate was very similar to caring for a human baby.

“We hand-raised him. I took him home at night with me,” he said. “You know, you get up at midnight and change the diaper, just like you would a human baby. When I took this baby home, I was totally responsible. You become Mom. They look at you just like a human baby.”

Although Stones raised multiple other gorillas, he added that Harambe stood out because he was “very intelligent” and “very inquisitive,” adding that the gorilla showed leadership skills and “nurtured his siblings.”

Harambe was shot and killed on Saturday after a 3-year-old boy fell into the gorilla pit at the Cincinnati Zoo. While the decision to fatally shoot the primate was controversial, zoo officials defended their decision, saying that because tranquilizers don’t immediately take effect, a real bullet was the best option for the safety of the toddler.

“The idea of waiting and shooting it with a hypodermic was not a good idea,” Cincinnati Zoo Director Than Maynard said in a press conference on Monday. “That would have definitely created alarm in the male gorilla. When you dart an animal, anesthetic doesn’t work in one second, it works over a period of a few minutes to 10 minutes. The risk was due to the power of that animal.”



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