Astonishing new footage how Harambe the gorilla was protecting a four-year-old boy who fell into his cage – minutes before he was shot dead.

Moments later, the 17-year-old gorilla was fatally shot by zoo staff in a bid to protect the boy after falling 12 feet into the enclosure.

However eyewitnesses have claimed that the gorilla was showing no aggressive behaviour towards the boy.

It is claimed that screams from those watching the unfolding situation panicked the animal, causing him to drag the child at a quick speed across the water.

Harambe, a male silverback gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo
Harambe, a male silverback gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo

And in this latest video from the dramatic scene, the boy is seen sat calmly next to the massive animal.

In one moment, the gorilla even appears to wrap his arms around the boy.

gorilla world map Cincinnati Zoo

At one point the boy and gorilla even appear to briefly hold hands.

Harambe, a male silverback gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo

Brittany Nicely was at the zoo with her children when she witnessed the incident.

Brittany Nicely, eye witness to Harambe gorilla being shot dead when a four-year-old boy jumped into the enclosure

“Witnessing this situation and hearing them shoot him has been one of the most horrific things I have ever been a part of.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the staff at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and the people who witnessed it.

“Also sending prayers for a speedy recovery of the little boy!”

Mrs Nicely has also claimed that the gorilla was not being aggressive towards the boy.

“I tried to prevent it,” she added. “I tried to grab him and I just couldnt get to him fast enough.

“What the first responders saw, Im just not sure… They said he was violently throwing the child around, which seems crazy to me.

“They have a picture of the boy sitting in front of the gorilla moments before they shot him.”

Harambe the gorilla as a baby at Gladys Porter Zoo before being relocated to Cincinnati Zoo

The mother of the boy who fell into the enclosure said that “accidents happen” on a Facebook post hitting out at critics.

Michelle Gregg has faced criticism for social media users and animal rights campaigners, who claim she should have been keeping a closer eye on her child.

Some animal lovers even suggested she should have been shot and killed instead of the gorilla Harambe.

Responding to the criticism on Facebook, she said: “I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers today. What started off as a wonderful day turned into a scary one.

“For those of you that have seen the news or been on social media that was my son that fell in the gorilla exhibit at the zoo. God protected my child until the authorities were able to get to him.

Harambe the gorilla at Gladys Porter Zoo before being relocated to Cincinnati Zoo

“My son is safe and was able to walk away with a concussion and a few scrapes… no broken bones or internal injuries.

“As a society we are quick to judge how a parent could take their eyes off of their child and if anyone knows me I keep a tight watch on my kids. Accidents happen but I am thankful that the right people were in the right place today.”

Jerry Stones, 74, from Texas, raised 17-year-old Harambe since birth, and described him as a “gentle giant”.

Adopted father who raised endangered gorilla Harambe ‘heartbroken’ after ‘gentle giant’ was shot dead

Speaking of his reaction to the news, he said: “An old man can cry, too.

“He was a special guy in my life. Harambe was my heart. It’s like losing a member of the family.”

€œI raised him from a baby, he was a sweet cute little guy. He grew up to be a pretty, beautiful male. He was very intelligent. Very, very intelligent.

“His mind was going constantly. He was just such a sharp character.”

The gorilla’s former zoo also paid tribute to the animal on Facebook.

Police officers are deciding whether to charge the parents with child neglect.

Animal lovers are outraged after the endangered animal had to be shot dead by zoo staff to protect the youngster.

More than 70,000 petitioners have signed up to a campaign on calling for the parents to be investigated after the child fell up to 12 feet into the enclosure.

Harambe the gorilla at Gladys Porter Zoo before being relocated to Cincinnati Zoo

And fury at Cincinnati Zoo continues to mount as animal lovers demand an explanation as to why the 17-year-old gorilla named Herambe was not tranquilised.

Harambe the gorilla at Gladys Porter Zoo before being relocated to Cincinnati Zoo

Eyewitnesses have even claimed that the animal was NOT hurting the child… and was in fact trying to protect it but was panicked by the screams of onlookers.

The petition reads: “This beautiful gorilla lost his life because the boy’s parents did not keep a closer watch on the child. We the undersigned believe that the child would not have been able to enter the enclosure under proper parental supervision.

Boy falls in to Gorilla enclosure at cincinnati zoo

“Witnesses claim that they heard the child state that he wished to go into the enclosure and was actively trying to breach the barriers.

“This should have prompted the parents to immediately remove the child from the vicinity. It is believed that the situation was caused by parental negligence and the zoo is not responsible for the child’s injuries and possible trauma.

Justice for Harambe the gorilla petition

“We the undersigned want the parents to be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life.”

Cincinnati Zoo shoot Harambe the Gorilla
The dramatic moment was caught on camera
Harambe the gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo

“Please sign this petition to encourage the Cincinnati Zoo, Hamilton County Child Protection Services, and Cincinnati Police Department hold the parents responsible.”

And police in Ohio have said that charges could be brought against the parents as their investigation continues.

The child was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre and is said to have sustained no serious injuries.

Boy falls in to Gorilla enclosure at cincinnati zoo

Social media users have also slammed the zoo for killing the gorilla, despite claims by zoo bosses that the child was in “a life-threatening situation”.

One user wrote: “Pretty sad that an endangered gorilla was killed today because parents couldn’t watch their kid.” Another said: “Today, an endangered gorilla was shot at the Cincy Zoo because a toddler’s parents were to damn lazy to watch their child.” 

Director Thane Maynard said that authorities had no other choice but to put the 400-pound-plus male gorilla down.

He added: “They made a tough choice and they made the right choice because they saved that little boy’s life.

“It could have been very bad.”

Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by Cincinnati Zoo.

Zoo bosses claim the child crawled through a barrier before falling into the moat area.

Mr Maynard added that this was the first time that his team had killed a zoo animal in such an emergency situation.

cincinnati zoo

He called it “a very sad day” at the zoo.