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tv   The Cycle  MSNBC  May 30, 2016 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT

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.. that won't weigh me down. for the nutrition you want without the calories you don't... try boost® 100 calories. each delicious snack size drink gives you... 25 vitamins and minerals and 10 grams of protein. and it's available in two new flavors, vanilla caramel and double chocolate fudge. i'm not about to swim in the slow lane. stay strong. stay active with boost®. i'm milissa rehberger in new york with breaking news. we are awaiting a news conference at the cincinnati zoo after a controversial shooting of one of its gorillas. >> we couldn't respond to all of you individually why we asked you here and we will respond to questions today. this is a very emotional time at the cincinnati zoo. it's unprecedented. we've never had to kill a dangerous animal in the middle
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of an emergency situation. the zoo's been here 143 years. that's saying a lot. it is a big loss to the cincinnati zoo, harambe was one of the most magnificent animals, a critically endangered species, we're one of the key players in captivation and endangered species. early morning i've never seen so many people here at 7:45 in the morning on a holiday and it s w showed whether people are off or not, they came because they really cared. the purpose of this is different, a chance for people to share their feelings. there were tears and hugs, people who knew harambe the best, his keepers shared a lot of stories about him. but everybody at the zoo feels the loss, there's no doubt about it. that does not just mean a dozen or so keepers in our primate department or couple hundred zoo
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employees but we have 1,000 volunteers at the zoo. we have hundreds of thousands of people who are members of this zoo and, of course, the entire community is very involved with the cincinnati zoo. it is a big loss. that said, we are very glad that the little boy is okay. that is one happy thing in a dangerous and bad story. natur naturally, we did not take the shooting of harambe lightly. but that child's life was in danger and people who question that or are monday morning quarterbacks or second-guessers don't understand that you can't take a risk with a silverback gorilla. they're very big, three times bigger than a man, six times stronger than that. this is very dangerous animals, i know from photos and videos she doesn't seem dangerous. we're talking about an animal i've seen with one hand take a
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coconut and crush it. he was disoriented he had never had anything like that going on. that also led to the decision, of course, not to dart the animal. almost everybody knows if you were to, say, dart your household pet, or you were to receive a dart yourself, there would be a pretty dramatic response and if you were an animal like a gorilla and didn't understand it there would be some sort of displaced discretion that would go at the new thing in your area. in the real world you make difficult calls and you have to make them and the safety of that child was paramount. i'm proud of our team that handled it and proud of how they handled everything since. we have had lots of discussions with harambe's keepers, who have told amazing stories of him coming here three years ago. you may know he's baby gladys's
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half-brother. he was on the trajectory, starting to mature. he was 17, headed toward bre breeding in a few years. it takes a while like teenage b boys, teenage girls take a while to mature until they can have a family of their own. of course, that won't happen but he certainly is missed, especially by those keepers that cared for him. his nim name was "handsome harrari -- excuse me. hand some harambi. he was a great looking gorilla. they said also a smart gorilla and very easy to train to deal with medical procedures and look in his mouth and check his teeth, things like that. anyway, before i take questions, i'll also say, in tough times you know who your friends are. we've heard from thousands of people around the world,
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colleagues all the way to jane goodall, zoo directors all over the world with both sympathy and with support for a difficult decision. people that know gorillas well, people that research them in this wild, people that work with them in captivity know exactly what decision we made and why. so i'm happy to take some questions. >> talk about the security barrier. >> one at a time. john. >> you have talked about the dart and tranquilizers. was there any other alternative that was looked at by the dangerous response team to distract harambe in any way? >> good question. most of you who have been here the other day have heard this, the sequence of events was when we realized what had happened, both our dangerous response team came, since the fire department was on the grounds, and our keepers very alertly, used the special call they have to bring
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the animals in. the females responded immedia immediately and came in. the male, because he was stimulated, excited and distracted by this little boy, did not go in. that would have been an ideal situation and he did not go in and he started to drag the boy around. an important thing to note, when you see snapshots, thank you, or you see clips, you might not see everything that happened. there are quotes directly from cincinnati fire department in their official report, this child was being dragged around. his head was banging on concrete. this was not a gentle thing. the child was at risk. we're very fortunate that he's okay. so, when it was determined that the child was being injured, not potentially injured but was being injured both down in the moat and up on the ground, we had to make a decision to shoot him and we did. >> how are the other gorillas doing? >> that's a good question.
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how are the other gorillas doing? we have two groups, the two females that lived with him and another group of seven, which is a big family group. the two that were living with him obviously the next morning were sort of looking around much like periodically animals in o zoos get shipped from one zoo to the other. they don't know what happened but they're doing fine and they're all resting. >> do they show any signs of loss? they didn't see anything happen? >> they did not see anything happen. they were inside? >> no sadness or anything like that? >> i don't think so. >> aren't gorillas very empathetic beings? >> gorillas are a lot like us. live in families. >> is the zoo negligent at all? how were there not more safe guards to keep the child from getting in there in the first place? >> the zoo is safe, we're inspected ed by the agency of zoos and affairiums and by the
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usda twice a year. the barriers are safe and exceed any required protocols. the trouble with barriers is that whatever the barrier is, some people can get past it, much the same way you might lock your car and people get in your car and, no, the zoo is not negligent. >> does more need to be done? are you reviewing the structural barriers there? >> as you can imagine when anything happens, any emergency or crisis, naturally, we are looking at that situation. the situation we have now is safe. it's the same as it has been. that said, we lost an incredibly magnificent animal and important part of our program. it's important to make sure our animals are safe. we will look at it. >> did you look at the barrier at all? was there any issue with the barrier? >> no. >> nothing wrong with the fence? the same as it had been in then 30 plus years. >> you mentioned a failure, how
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did the child get in if it was up to code? was it the parent's fault? the guardrail's fault, where do you place blame? >> i'm not a big finger pointer. politicians are finger pointers. we live in the real world and make real decisions. kids can climb over barriers, we make sure our guests and visitors are safe, over 1.6 million visitors a year. that said, people can climb over barrier, that's what happened. >> isn't that the point of a barrier, so people can't get over them or get through them? >> as i said, the exhibit is safe and the barrier's safe. that said, any of us in this room could climb over barrier, if we choose. >> we're adults. this is a child. >> i understand that. >> we know bet than to climb over. a child that doesn't understand the risk he's in by climbing over, why is there not more to
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make that impossible? >> the barrier's adequate. we all need to work to make sure your families and kids are safe whether visiting a zoo or shopping mall. >> as to status quo, what is chan changing? this has happened. what is changing? >> sure. we're looking at it to determine what's the optimum situation and in the mist of making big changes over the next year doubling the size of the exhibit with a big gorilla indoor greenhouse. >> will that change your plans at all? >> no. that's important for long term gorilla breeding and conservation. >> looking back, maybe you were in crisis mode at the time. looking back, would you make the same decision again with the animal? >> yes. look back, we would make the same decision. i know after it is over and the child is safe, it's easy like a monday morning quarterback to look at it and say, wow wow wow, don't we need to do this differenti
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differe differently. the people that say that don't understand primate biological and silver back gorillas and the danger the child was in and we were not there at an important time to make important decisi decisions. we stand by our decision and would make the same call today. >> you mentioned the day of the event you had not yet spoken with the family. have you been in touch with the family since then? >> we have not been in touch with the family. they have requested privacy. i don't blame them. everyone at the zoo is relieved the little boy is okay. >> what about pressing charges against the parents? >> that would not be a good plan. the police were here. the police did not cite any. there's not a legal action. but i think they know we saved that little boy's life. >> how about the future of the breeding program. what will happen now and tell us how significant this is that he's gone? >> sure. gorillas are one of the most endangered animals in this world. there are only 360 lowland
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gorillas in zoos throughout north america, canada and m&m. ours is a leading program. we have had 50 babies born in a zoo in the last 46 years. we will continue our breeding program. the breeding group we currently have that has three youngsters in it is still in tact and folks see them when they come to the zoo. the two females not part of that group, over time, may end up with another male in their group as we grow that. we'll see. as i said, we're going to double the size of our exhibit space out there, which will allow us to have more and different configuration with our gorillas. >> like you said, we only saw snapshots of that incident on film. as we all know, that incident went on for about 10 minutes. are you aware of any other video of this ongoing ordeal that might give more of a perspective of the seriousness of the situation, as it continued to
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unfold? >> i'm not a video expert, but we talked extensively with people who were there, our security team as well as members from cincinnati fire department who were there and they are all unanimous that that child wasn't just in danger but was being dragged around by the ankle and being hurt. >> can you give us a step by step of that 10 minutes as it started to unfold? we see maybe what about two minutes of what happened. it was a 10 minute incident. do you have a step by sten of what happened, say, after that video shut off? >> sure. a brief overview is a little before 4:00, on saturday, this young child, 4-year-old, i think, evidently went over the barrier and through the bushes and into the moat. it's about 15 feet down into a foot and a half of water. so he must be a tough little kid because that's a lot to do right there. he was splashing around in the
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water. natur naturally, the visitors -- it was a crowded day, we had over 7,000 people in the zoo, they were reacting and harambe not e noticed that and looked. on seeing him, he went down. he went into the water with him, swished him around in the water some, mostly by the ankle and then decided he needed to take him up onto the land. he carried him up the ladder, put him up on top and then again continued to do the same thing. you know, gorillas are not polar be bears. he wasn't trying to eat the animal obviously or eat the child but he was disoriented and wanted to get the child to sort of stay there and probably be like a gorilla would, which is different than the situation. because obviously the child was upset and people were screaming. during that time, our security team emptied the exhibit. the dangerous animal response
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team officer came and dispatched harambe. the reason was that it was a life-threatening situation and a silverback gorilla is a very dangerous animal. it would be a var dangerous animal to us but particularly very dangerous animal to a little kid. >> any word when the exhibit will be open? >> hopefully by next weekend. >> you said the boy went over the barrier. >> that's what i understand. >> earlier, you said he went und under. >> my understanding from talking to folks since that time that he went over. >> can you walk us through how he was able to get in? >> do you know any 4 year-olds? they can climb over anything. >> okay. >> it doesn't sound like anybody is taking responsibility for what happened, the zoo, the mother, we're all just chalking this up as an accident and we can go home, does that sit okay with you? >> the cincinnati zoo is taking responsibility. >> you said there was nothing wrong with the barrier. >> we're the ones that took the
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loss on this. it's very important to us. a lot of people express concerns, a lot of people disagree perhaps with it but it doesn't affect anybody as much as the people here at the zoo. >> how tall is this barrier? >> no one is admitting any wrongdoing here. you say the barrier's fine. the 4-year-old was just being a 4-year-old. >> that's not exactly what i'm s saying. what i'm saying is we had a very very difficult situation. we made a very difficult call and handled it. >> do you think fault should lie with any, though? >> as i said, i'm not here to point fingers about fault. >> has that barrier been the same in the last few years? have there been any changes to it? kind of like a rail at the top open with tension wires? >> it's the same barrier that's been there 38 years, yes. >> have you checked all the other location, the bear locations and elephant because they have similar setups, loose
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tension wires, a few feet of bushes and then a moat. couldn't that same situation happen in those animal enclos e enclosures as well? >> naturally at the cincinnati zoo we take safety very seriously and we are all the time keenly interested in continuous improvement. if you're familiar with the zoo, you'll know at different times as things need to be changed, they wear out, we add in more fen fences, guards, safety measureme measurements. we do make sure that those areas are safe. as i said, you can lock your car, you can lock your house. if somebody really want to get in, they can. we take safety very seriously. >> how does that compare with other zoos that have similar kind of display offers the barrier walls you have? >> very similar. >> to make it clear, there are no vertical steel bar, do i understand that right? horizontal bar? >> every 8 feet or so. it's a substantial rail, made
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out of stainless steel and been there 38 years. >> vertical bars every 8 feet? >> uh-huh. >> but not close together? >> correct. correct. >> so will you look at upgrading that then so a 4-year-old just being a 4-year-old can't climb over and end up in this kind of situation? >> absolutely. we're in the middle of looking at that right now. the nation ail behind that is we just lost one of our most important animals. we have to make sure our animals are safe. >> children as well. parents bring their children to the zoo and they should feel safe knowing their kid just being a kid isn't going to be able to end up in this situation, i would imagine that's a priority as well. >> uh-huh. >> what is the industry standard for barriers? are you just like every other zoo that has this? can this happen anywhere else? >> well, tragedies, mistakes, accidents can happen all the time. there's no guaranteeing against those. but all over the zoo, we take safety very seriously and we
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review our barriers very seriously, both the barriers to keep people out and keep animals in making sure fences are high enough to keep them in and barriers high enough to keep people out. >> you mentioned the barriers are reviewed by someone? there's someone keeping the zoo accountableable if their barr r barriers meet minimum standards? >> a credited zoos through north america called the aza, association of zoos and acqui acquirings. every five years we go through and accreditation process increasingly arduous year by year as zoos become more professional. additionally zoos are regulated by usda and we have veterinary inspections looking at exhibit areas to behind the scenes areas to care and feeding and medical care of our collection. >> you said the exhibit could be open again by next weekend and you're reviewing possible changes to keep people safe. will those safeguards or any kind of new safeguards be in place when the exhibit reopens? >> the exhibit will be
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completely safe when it opens. i don't know the answer what changes might or might not be. we are reviewing that. natur naturally, taking this very very seriously. this is a very big loss to the zoo, not just emotional loss but loss to a key conservation and breeding program we run. making sure the animals and visitors stay safe is our priority. >> you're not sure if there will be any changes in place when the exhibit reopens? as i said, we're looking how to do that and i don't know the answer. >> was there a specific protocol, in other words, did they practice this specific scenario, and if they do, what was the last time they actually practiced it? >> sure. that's a good question. i'm very proud of our dart team, dangerous animal response team, security team. they do drills regularly, they train regularly. they go to the shooting range regularly. they are certified by the amount county sheriff's department.
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clearly, they are steady at the moment of truth. we never had a situation like this before at the zoo but they meet and both do physical drills as well as meet to do tabletop discussion drills, and they had done that as recently as last week, which was them doing that in response to a similar situation that happened in a zoo in chile with people and predators in an exhibit. >> has there ever been another incident like that exhibit at a zoo. >> never where we had to kill an animal. we had accidents at a zoo. we had a zookeeper lose her arm to a polar bear but not in an exhibit and never in a situation where their life was at risk like this. >> how many times was harambe shot? >> once. >> and his body right now? >> we have a renowned assistant reproduction program called crew
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center for conservation of endangered wildlife and they collected viable sperm from him, which are important to bank on a real endangered species for genetic reasons and future population in zoos. in addition, we've been conta contacted by a number of scientists working on genetics issues and other issues with lowland gorillas. so most of that is in the function of storing tissue for potential future research as well as possible breeding purposes. >> this is not the end of his gene pool, his sperm was saved, some of it? >> his sperm was saved. not the end of his gene pool. in addition, he and his lineage are part of an ongoing breeding program. as i mentioned, gladys, the famous now 3 or 4-year-old gorilla in our exhibit also came from the zoo in brownsville, texas and she's his half sister. >> you praised the way the response was handled but the boy was in there for 10 minutes.
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could they have reacted quicker? >> i think we reacted remarkably quickly. we were remarkably fortunate that the boy wasn't hurt. >> how tall this is barrier and how many feet of bushes were there before the drop off? >> the barrier is a little over 3 feet high and the distance between the barrier and the -- if you will dwrerks -- will, the drop zone there, about 4 feet drop. >> a 15 foot drop and you're in the water. >> correct. >> did you try to balance the safety of the patrons versus their ability to access and see the animals, is there a take away, a bless sage for parents and people who take kids to the zoo moving forward? >> sure. very fortunately, this zoo is a long standing beloved institution in cincinnati. so i think people recognize we care about our animals. i spent the last couple of days
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at the zoo walking on the grounds and strangers come up and say, they know this is hard and sorry about harambe but they care about him. in terms of a message, yeah, everybody should keep ahold of their kids, keep an eye on him, here or anywhere at the shopping mall, right? schoolyard? the zoo is a safe place. this is the one time this sort of thing has happened in 143 years. >> what do you think about the backlash that you and the mother have received over the last few days? >> i'm old enough i don't pay much attention to social media. from the legitimate media, all been pretty positive and from our colleagues particularly so. >> was there any exposure in that complex area with surveillance cameras? most zoos have surveillance cameras to watch the animals overnight in case there is an issue. do you have any surveillance cameras in the for ril la world
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area? >> i don't believe we do because i haven't seen the video you're talking about. we have a lot of closed-circuit video in areas where we aren't such as in the back of the buildings to observe animals when we aren't here. >> do you know statistics of how many children come to the zoo every year? >> if it's half our visitor, it would be 800,000 so i guess maybe more than half our visi r visitors. some families come with one parent and three kids. a million kids a year probably. >> you're the expert. non-experts are saying, it looked like the gorilla was protecting him. what was the gorilla doing? was he treating this boy like a baby gorilla? >> the gorilla was clearly agitated, the gorilla was clearly disoriented. so the idea of waiting and tr t treating with a hypodermic was not a good idea. that would have definitely created alarm in this male gorilla and as i'm sure you know, when you dart an animal or even if you yourself go to the
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hospital, anesthetic doesn't work in one second, works over a period of a few minutes to 10 minutes. the risk was due to the power of that animal. >> was he trying to protect the child in your eyes as someone who does study gorillas? >> in my eyes, he was acting errat erratically. he was disoriented. it's due to his strength. that's where the danger was. >> is there a monetary value that the zoo will have to get a hit on? >> that's a good question. today, we live in a world where endangered species aren't bought and sold, so when we breed cheetahs at our breeding farm and send them to other zoos, part of breeding agreement. same thing true with gorillas, they're not an animal they're a million dollars to get one, a process of big computerized d e dating game with other zoos back
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and forth. >> is there any legislation you are potentially to face with the death of the animal? are there sanctions in place of the endangered species act that protect zoos from any national or federal litigation? >> no. i think we're god in that regard -- we're good in that regard. as you run a zoo with wild animal, you have to have a number of priorities and one of them is safety of our visitors and employees as well as safety of our animals. >> are you in favor of increasing signage to greater warn children and parents about getting close to the barricades and barriers? are you in favor of adding to that? you said you're looking at the barriers and not sure if changes will be made. >> we have a lot of signs at the zoo about don't feed the animals or don't cross the barrier, wild animals are dangerous. we can certainly look at that and put a couple more up. the theme would be respect the
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anim animals, that's what we're trying to do, not have people whether by throwing food there in or certainly by climbing in there in one way or another h m harming our animals or causing the death of our animals. >> to clarify, is harambe's body here physically? >> yes. >> are you having a memorial service for the staff in remembrance of him? >> i don't think we have a formal memorial service planned. the full zoo staff coming together to share our thoughts and memories and talk about it. cry a little bit. >> you said that your main concern was its strength. in the beginning, you spoke a little bit about him being able to crush a coconut with his hand. can you give us any other examples of the sheer power this gorilla had? >> he was over 420 pounds, that's bigger than anybody on the cincinnati bengals, as an example. his arms -- i'm sure you're
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familiar with gorillas, most primates have a big upper body and small lower body, unlike humans, so his arms are as big as our legs. they're very big, very strong appenda appendages. the difference is they have a huge hand that's extremely strong. that's where his strength comes from, his chest, his arms. that was the risk. >> what's the reaction from all of the other zoos? you mentioned, did i hear right, more than 1,000 zoo officials have talked, what is their reaction? >> they are obviously sympathetic and empathetic. they know how much people in o zoos love their animals. they know it's a challenge with an iconic species like a silverback lowland gorilla because gorillas are a beloved species. it's true, we all know his name. we don't know every zebra's name but do know our gorilla's names
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and they know we're going through a lot and offer their support. >> what do you think it says that they are all backing you up? >> they're professionals that understand the animal business and understand the power of gorillas and understand tough decisi decisions have to be made. >> have you been in contact with gladys origination? >> i haven't but the curators have. >> is there any talk of a visit in the future? >> you know, i think the opposite. i think people will show how much they care about animals. people that work at zoos love animals and people innately love anim animals. this is a town that loves its zoo and loves its gorillas. i think folks will be here to see them. >> when do you think they will open again? >> this weekend is the hope. >> two more questions. >> you might have seen this, i don't know if it's been on the press or not, but a charming
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thing, ever since yesterday morning, some have been bringing flowers and notes and putting them around, we have a gorilla statute at the entrance to our gorilla center and lots of kind notes, about him. >> to be specific, it will reopen saturday? >> that's our goal. >> any ramifications in the future for either the zoo or these people, do you know? >> i don't know. i hope not. >> what about an investigation, how you're looking into this, is that just the zoo itself? the usda or is there someone that will check off on that when you're done with it? >> sure. as i mentioned the zoos are regulated by the usda. they will take a look at this situation. they're charged with, you know, reinforcing the animal welfare act and endangered species act to make sure we're checking off all the boxes as we do it. naturally in our case we're
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looking at this area and other areas around the zoo to make sure the barriers are just right. >> what do you think of harambe's law, that someone not paying attention, if an animal that's critically endangered has to be shot? >> i'm not familiar with it. i heard there were some petit n petitions or something. that all sounds very complicated. i don't know the answer to it. >> you mentioned jane goodall. could you tell us what came out of that exchange? >> she sent her sympathy. she sent her sympathy. >> last question. >> could you talk about what you were just talking about looking at other areas of the zoo? is there a safety audit plan in place happening coming up here? >> as i said, and i think folks the other day heard me say obviously if you have park open to over 1.6 million people a year, you have over 10,000 kids spend the night at the zoo in
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the dark, you take safety very seriously. we review safety regularly and we have a security and safety team. we also have a system through both our facilities program as well as our keepers on the grounds to review areas regularly and look at them and see what needs to be improved or repa repaired. that's an ongoing process. we'll make sure it's tight. >> we need your name. >> my name is thane maynard, director of the cincinnati zoo botanical garden. >> spell it for us. >> t-h-a-n-e m-a-y-n-a-r-d. >> thanks. >> thanks. >> you have been watching the director of the cincinnati zoo by the name of thane maynard, who is defending the zoo's decision to shoot and kill a silverback gorilla named harambe after an unattended child managed to climb into his enclosure. joining me now is jeff corwin,
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wildlife biggest aologist and h "ocean mysteries." what is your take on this? >> my heart goes out to the staff who works at the zoo. i can't imagine they would ever imagine themselves to be in this situation where one of their most beloved residents should be dispatched in such a way. this is a great zoo. it's an urban zoo that connects with millions of people every year. it's a terrible tragedy. i imagine there will be many questions to come out of this and hopefully, there will be answers that will prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again. it is just absolutely horrific and i have problems just wat watching the videotape. >> i'm curious, most of us are watch going this and as that gorilla is gigantic and incredibly strong, it doesn't look like he's trying to hurt the boy and i know i'm saying what everybody else is saying but what do you think?
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>> in that immediate moment, i don't think he was trying to hurt the boy. that doesn't mean that in two more minutes from now the situation wouldn't have been drastically different. yes, there are examples where we've seen what we call ail t e truistic behavior, where in an emergency situation for example in chicago when a child slipped into a gorilla enclosure the gorilla cradled the boy and protected the child. >> i remember that. >> there's also the other side. we've seen examples largely as a result of human negligence or error where human beings have paid the ultimate price for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. >> you heard reporters asking lots of questions here. one of them i thought was a very very good one. blame must be somewhere. is there blame to go around somewhere? >> well, i think they're going to have to totally distill this situation down and kind of break it apart and look at wherever the mistakes were made to make sure this doesn't happen again.
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we have to keep in mind this zoo has been a part of this program for almost 50 years. they have had visitors for over a century, millions and millions of visitors and something like this tragedy has never happened before. i think we as the visiting public need to be responsible in this way we behave and interact. i can't tell you how many times i've been in an environment like this, in a zoo or national park and see someone plop their little kid next to a wild animal thinking it's animotronics at walt disney world. these are wild creatures and warrant a lot of respect. this zoo belongs to what's called the aza. joining the aza is like joining and ivy league school. it's no easy task and they monitor these zoos very closely. it's a tragedy all around but hopefully a learning lesson. >> jeff corwin, we have to leave it there.
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we've been updated by the director of the cincinnati zoo of the shooting death of a gorilla at the cincinnati zoo yesterday and we will have more news coming up later. the congo, it's one of the most perilous countries in africa, torn apart by poverty and civil war, armed rebels still terrorize the region. tonight, we travel deep into the congo to focus on another struggle for survival, a rare endangered until recently unknown population of inapes, almost impossible to see. richard engel sets out for the bili forest to find them. >> reporter: it's not often you travel to a war zone to find a sanctuary. that's exactly what we're doing. we're headed to a patch of tropical forests in the congo few dear to visit one of the most dangerous and remote places on earth. the forest is also home to some of our closest relatives.
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they call them the mystery apes of bili. it's taken a long time to get here and bring them to you. a motorcycle can only take you so far in this remote corner of eastern congo. pretty soon it was time to start hiking into the 12,000 square mile forest. we were following the leading expert on bili apes, american climatologist, billy hicks. he explained whispering even though we could hear apes nearby, finding them won't be easy. >> if we don't hear anything in the next few minutes we go and explore. >> it's game of patience. >> it really is. it really is. >> and endurance. >> figuring them out, figuring out their patterns. >> reporter: when he wasn't whisp whispering, hicks was tapping on trees the way apes, do.
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>> they do this? >> they do. it's call natural drums, like tree drumming. gorillas drum on their chests and chimpanzees on trees. >> to communicate? >> exactly. >> reporter: hicks first came here decades ago drawn by rumors of giant apes aid to howl at the moon and hunt lions. no scientist ever managed to spend enough time with these apes to figure out what species they belonged to. you heard about these mystery apes and wanted to find out for yourself? >> yes. >> why is it a mystery? >> i didn't know what the hell it was. >> it was when the belgian was the colony serving back to joseph conrad's heart of da darkness. they brought skulls home to belgian where experts thought they had discovered a new third species of gorilla. >> this could have been a sort of missing link connecting the eastern and western species.
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that sounded fascinating. >> the fascination with the mystery apes was rekindled after a swiss photographer arrived in bili in 1956. >> carla was bringing out pictures and reports of ground nests sleeping on the ground. that's normally a gorilla behavior. maybe speculation this was a hybrid between gorilla and chimpanz chimpanzees, new species of great apes. >> scientist s began coming to bili and installed motion cameras deep in the forest and finally able to capture clear images of the apes which looked like large chimps but behaved a little like gorillas. dna samples proved they were chimpanzees after all, it's just that the chimps of bili forest behave a little differently. >> they have a different diet and culture. here's an example.
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this is a mound. >> a termite nest? >> yes. they're all over the structure. the bili chimpanzee with one exception are the only to eat this. >> it's not just their cult cul uniqueness that makes them important to hicks. he says that are probably the largest population of wild ch p chimps left on the planet. his discovery got a lot of attention around the world. today, these chimpanzees and the other animals of this virgin wilderness are endangered. about a year ago, congolese park rangers started patrolling bili forest for the first time ever. while hicks was looking for chi chimps, the park rangers were hunting for hunters and there were signs of poaching everywhere. they found and disabled dozens of snares, traps made of wire or vi vines, designed to catch wildlife. >> if an animal steps in it, you grab the leg?
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>> chimps often lose fingers and sometimes hands s ts to snares these. given what we were seeing it's hard to believe this is a conservation area where hunting and fishing are against the law. but there's a reason poachers hunt with impunity. the bili forest is effectively l lawless. this operation represents the first conservation effort in this part of the forest. the rangers are here because of this man, jeff due payne, from the african wildlife foundation which helps train, equip and pay them. their effort paid off immedia immediately. the rangers discovered a poa poacher's camp up ahead. >> do you think it will be hostile? >> normally not but one never knows. >> a couple of scouts determined the camp had been abandoned. it appears the poachers took off in a hurry. >> there's nobody. >> nobody here? but looks like there was people
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here recently. >> cooking and fire here. >> evidence of illegal hunting is all around including shotgun shells and racks for smokie ing poached meat. >> i found over here by this fire pit over here some monkey bo bones. >> so they were hunting monkeys as well? >> clearly, yes. >> the rangers also found this item that their commander explained as part of a deadly weapon. >> they were making a crossbow out of this? >> not a gun. >> a crossbow. these arrows, they're black, does that mean they're pois poisonous? >> poisonous, don't touch. >> will you destroy this camp right now? >> this has to disappear. >> this has to be destroyed to stop the poaching? >> wi. >> poaching is one thing but at any moment these rangers could be facing even more dangerous enemies. bili forest is located in a corner of the democratic republic of the congo that has seen decades of war often
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spilled over to the other failed states of central africa, one of the most notorious remnants of that endless war is the lord's resistance army better known as lra, the leader joseph kony are now on the run. some of the fighters are now hiding out in the forest where they live as outlaws. >> they poach the wildlife and kidnap civilians, a classic lram.o. >> which is why the wildlife foundation hired him to train the rangers to fight. the former israeli commando is teaching them everything from how to safely detain poachers to surviving a firefight. and setting an ambush. [ yelling ] >> these guys will shoot back. >> they have to train for a fight to the death? >> yes. >> this is not just wildlife protection?
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>> no. this is wild west. shoot to kill. >> they're park rangers but they're also counter-terrorism force. >> national security, i would say. >> his company, miesha consu consulting is made up of highly trained graduates of israel's special forces. so far they've trained about 20 ra rangers. >> is that enough? >> not enough at all but you need to start from something. >> the next day, rangers discovered another camp where they detained two young men. we saw how surprised these po h poachers were to see the law being enforced for the very first time. >> what were the two of you doing in the forest? [ speaking foreign language ] >> he says he's fishing. >> but they were fishing by poisoning the river and the rangers found large caliber rifle, cartridges and snares in their camp. >> so they're in deep trouble now? >> he's taking them with him. can't leave them here.
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>> hicks knew to find any chimps he'd have to get away from the poaching camps and hunting trails. he and his team hiked for another 14 days and covered more than 100 miles. they reached a part of the forest few humans have ever visited. and there at last, they caught a few glimpses of the bili forest chimps, like this young female, who clearly didn't like the attention. [ screaming ] >> hicks thinks she's never seen a human before. and for now, among her own kind, she's safe from people. but when we went outside the forest into the nearby town of bili, we could discover there was a thriving market for the local animals, and we would come across another bili ape, this one in need of rescue. that's next. before earning enough cash back from bank of america to buy a new gym bag. before earning 1% cash back everywhere, every time
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>> we've been in the depths of the forest with cleve hicks, a leading american prime tolgs who spent more time there than any other scientists and with conservation rangers who are trying to protect the chimpanzees. we realized protecting the chimps will require more than hunting down poachers. it's going to mean changing how people here live. the forest has always been a source of food. >> i think there's another monkey over there. >> monkey meat sold openly in the market. >> eating primates endangers all
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of humanity. >> chimp meat is illegal, so it's traded in less public places. we saw another grave threat when we followed the chief ranger as he pursued a tip. he'd been told that an army officer had a baby chimp and a baboon tied to a post. the information turned out to be protect. the officer was keeping the animals as pets. baby chimps often end up in the pet trade, that's illegal, because they are endangered. the officer planned to make a gift of the chimp. >> he wants to give it to his chief as a present. >> the chimp was saved, but now the rangers had to figure out what to do with it. >> cobra was incredibly comfortable around us humans. baby chimps often are. but he is probably the sole survivor of the massacre of his entire family. and he will never be able to go back into the forest.
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>> hicks volunteered to find a new home for the orphan. >> amazing. >> they are very, very adorable. but the question is, why is it difficult to reintroduce this chimp and other chimps to the wild? >> it would probably be killed by the chimps in the group. if they see a chimp from another group, they'll probably kill it. >> so he can't go back to the wild? >> no, he would die. we need to take him to a sanctuary. >> long-term prison care. >> unfortunately, that's the best we can offer. >> he carefully crated cobra up for a flight to his new life in a sanctuary. >> you're gonna go see more chimpanzees. >> cobra could live 20 years in zoo-like captivity. he'll have plenty of food and the company of other chimpanzees, but it's a far cry
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from his old life. >> which brings us back here to billy forest. one of the last places on earth where chimps can still be chimps. this forest has protected them for millennia, but it can't do that anymore. now it's up to us. >> it's a precious treasure of the world, to have that untouched population of chimps out there, and it's our responsibility to find some way to protect them. because we can't afford to let our closest animal relatives be pushed out of the forest that we once shared. coming up -- >> oh, donald. >> we call him donald. >> he has a bad hairdo. >> political experts, wise beyond their years. >>il a hillary, i saw a picture her. >> what advice do they have for the candidates? >> you just stop it. >> the kids' table. cords. x-rays, mris.
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>> mom always said, mind your manners. a good rule for everyone this mother's day, especially the candidates for president, who have been criticized by some as being downright childish. tonight we put that to our experts at the kids' table. >> if i was in the race, i would shoot to win the race. >> he's like a little baby, soft, weak. >> you know, donald's incessant whining and crying --
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>> kasich, who eats like a slob. >> oh, donald. we call him donald. >> he has a bad hairdo. [ laughter ] >> hillary. >> i saw a picture of these guys and her fighting on the news. >> you know, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait, wait. >> that's not accurate. >> she was upset, and she was talking. >> let's talk about the issues that divide us. >> you would say stop it. >> tell them, please, can you try to get together, like we could figure this out. >> you just don't do it back. >> can you please tell me the problem and i would like to do my best to fix it. >> where were you? i mean, really. >> she's wrong. >> first of all, this guy's a joke artist and this guy's a liar. >> no arguing. >> because you might hurt somebody's feelings. >> i think it's kinda bad. i do it at home, though.
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>> if somebody bites you, you say sorry, and you give them a hug. >> be happy. and also be nice. >> i think my mom would be good for president. >> my dad. >> us. >> actually, my mom. because she knows how to deal with people. >> oh, my goodness, can we vote for them? that's on assignment tonight. we'll be seeing you sundays at 6/7:00 central. here's what we're working on for next week. >> we journeyed to a paradise so pristine, tv cameras have never been. >> i wanted to help save a part of this planet. >> a tropical land that time forgot. harry smith dives right in. >> it's amazing down there.
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>> next week, on assignment. that's all for now, i'm lester holt. thank you for joining us. tonight nbc news goes on assignment. >> i felt just like a gigantic piece of -- >> bleep it. [ laughter ] matt lauer one-on-one with the most decorated olympic champ. >> i've never heard you saying the things you're saying before. >> michael phelps speaks out about the demons that plagued him. >> it was a cry for help? >> i believe so, yeah. >> and how rehab saved him. >> i'm not hiding behind anything anymore. >> harry smith ventures thousands of miles to an enchanted land where tv news


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