The shooting of the gorilla caused uproar on social media after a four-year-old boy fell into his enclosure.
The gorilla was shown dragging the boy through water in the enclosure — but people have also pointed to footage where the gorilla is seemingly holding the boy’s hand.
Defenders of Harambe have said holding the child’s hand indicated his good intentions.
Former zookeeper and gorilla handler Amanda O’Donoughue explained that Harambe’s behaviour was not symbolic of his desire to protect the child but really the “stuff of any keeper’s nightmares”.
O'Donoughue says the gorilla was actually positioning the child as a display of intimidation.
"I keep hearing that the Gorilla was trying to protect the boy. I do not find this to be true. Harambe reaches for the boys hands and arms, but only to position the child better for his own displaying purposes," she said.
Her insights came through a Facebook post that has since gone viral with over half a million shares.
The former zookeeper said the potentially confusing behaviour was actually attributable to a gorilla's pattern of bluffing or intimidating threats.
"An adult male silverback gorilla has one job, to protect his group. He does this by bluffing or intimidating anything that he feels threatened by," she said.
O'Donoughue shed further light on the body language displayed by Harambe during the incident, describing it as a nightmare waiting to happen.