The zookeeper who raised Harambe the gorilla has opened up about the devastating loss, which came about when a 4-year-old fell into Harambe's enclosure at the Cincinatti Zoo.
Jerry Stones, who works as the facilities director for the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, was present when Harambe was first born. The beloved silverback gorilla lived to be 17 years old.
"We hand-raised him. I took him home at night with me," Stones told ABC News. "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."
Harambe left a special impact on Stones, even though he had been responsible for raising many animals throughout his career.
"I raised I don't know how many baby gorillas, but he was memorable because he was so intelligent,” Stones said. “He showed a positive attitude as far as leadership. He nurtured his siblings. He would carry them around. That was one of the reasons I pushed for him to go to Cincinnati, so that he could have a family."
Despite the ongoing controversy surrounding Harambe's death including the boy's mother saying “accidents happen,” Stones declined to comment on the circumstances since he was not present when it happened. Instead, he hopes that something good can come out of the tragedy.
“This is a chance for Harambe to help his family, even after his death," Stones said. "We're hoping that people with a negative attitude or a bunch of anger can turn that anger inward and help him."
Stones has encouraged well-wishers to donate to the Gladys Porter Zoo's Harambe Fund, which will put any funds it raises toward gorilla conservation programs.