Noted zoo-lover Newt Gingrich said the shooting of a rare gorilla at a Cincinnati Zoo last week was “tragic,” yet unavoidable.
In an email to Business Insider, the former House speaker said the shooting was necessary after a 3-year-old boy managed to get into a gorilla enclosure, where a gorilla named Harambe dragged the small child through its habitat.
“Tragic, but unavoidable once the parents failed to keep track of their child,” Gingrich wrote.
“You couldn’t risk the child being killed,” he continued.
Business Insider asked the speaker whether the zoo had taken the proper safety precautions. He referred us to Terry Maple, who co-authored a book with Gingrich in 2007 about the environment.
Maple did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Harambe’s death sparked a firestorm online, where many animal-rights activists criticized zoo officials’ decision and the child’s parents for allowing him to get into the gorilla’s enclosure.
Gingrich is a well-known zoo enthusiast whose first foray into politics was an attempt to lobby his hometown to build a zoo when he was just 11 years old. According to The Washington Post, Gingrich has visited over 100 different zoos in America. He reportedly stopped at an Iowa zoo on the eve of a Republican presidential debate during his 2012 bid in order to relax.
While Gingrich hasn’t been in office since 1999, he has been a vocal supporter of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and may be on the shortlist to serve as the real-estate magnate’s running mate.
Gingrich echoed Trump’s own comments about the gorilla, which the real-estate magnate shared during a press conference on Tuesday.
“I think it’s a very tough call,” Trump said. “It was amazing because there were moments with that gorilla the way he held that child where it looks like a mother holding a baby, looked so beautiful and calm.”
“And there were moments where it looked pretty dangerous,” he continued. “I don’t think they had a choice. I mean, probably, they didn’t have a choice. You had a young child where their life was at stake. I mean, you know it’s too bad there wasn’t another way.”