One of the zookeepers who raised the gorilla shot dead at the Cincinnati Zoo on Saturday said the loss of the animal was "no different than losing a family member that was very close to you."
Jerry Stones, the facilities director for the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, the birthplace of Harambe, told ABC News that he was there for Harambe's birth and raised him like a child.
"We hand-raised him. I took him home at night with me," Stones said. "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."
Stones described Harambe, a 450-pound endangered silverback gorilla, as "very intelligent" and "very inquisitive."
"I raised I don't know how many baby gorillas, but he was memorable because he was so intelligent. 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."
Stones said that he could not speak of the incident in Cincinnati that ended in the death of his beloved gorilla because he was not there but that when he heard the news, it was a blow to his heart.
"It's like losing a family member. It tore me up. I was very close to him. His whole life, I was with him."
The Gladys Porter Zoo has set up the Harambe Fund in memory of its beloved silverback to raise money for gorilla conservation efforts. According to a statement on the Texas zoo's website, "harambee" means "to pull together" in Swahili.
"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."
The Gladys Porter Zoo posted pictures of Harambe on its Instagram page about two years ago, when it was preparing to send him to Cincinnati.
With a mixture of sad and happy feelings, we are preparing #Harambe, one of our #Silverback #WesternLowlandGorillas, for the journey to his new home. The #CincinnatiZoo and big, new adventures are waiting for you, big boy! We will miss Harambe but he is destined to continue #Moja's prolific legacy. Photos: Jim Smith, Patricia Scanlan (2), Natalie Lindholm (clockwise from top left) #gladysporterzoo #gpzanimals #gpz #newhome #gorilla