University of New England animal behaviour expert Gisela Kaplan told news.com.au she does not believe the boy was in any real danger.
“Usually a child is not a threat,” said Professor Kaplan, who is the author of Orang-utans in Borneo.
“The silverback would’ve understood that it was a defenceless small child. They would not normally attack, they are not an agreessive species (and) in the wild I’m certain the boy wouldn’t have been killed.”
Prof Kaplan said the leader of the troop was doing what it was supposed to do. It was “investigating”, not attacking.
“I can tell you silverbacks are protectors of their group,” she said.
“If there’s an unusual thing happening, (Harambe) needs to investigate. The fact that he went over to the child is absolutely natural behaviour but it doesn’t mean he was aggressive.
“If he was going to attack he would’ve warned him first. The first thing they do is charge and beat their chests and as far as I know that didn’t happen.” [Emphasis added]