Officials at the Cincinnati Zoo say they were forced to fatally shoot a gorilla on Saturday after it dragged a young boy that had fallen into its enclosure.
Zoo officials said the 4-year-old boy fell after he climbed through a public barrier at the Gorilla World exhibit Saturday afternoon.
The 17-year-old male gorilla named Harambe picked the boy up and dragged him for around 10 minutes.
In those few tense moments, the zoo's dangerous animal response team decided the boy was in "a life-threatening situation" and chose to take an action they'd never been forced to take before.
"They made a tough choice and they made the right choice because they saved that little boy's life," Zoo Director Thane Maynard said. "It could have been very bad."
Officials said they couldn't risk just tranquilizing the 400-plus pound primate because it wouldn't have immediately knocked him out, putting the boy in continued danger.
"We are all devastated that this tragic accident resulted in the death of a critically endangered gorilla," Maynard said in a news release. "This is a huge loss for the zoo family and the gorilla population worldwide."
The child was alert when transported to Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The hospital is not releasing details on his condition. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and little boy,” said Maynard.
The zoo planned to remain open on Sunday, but Gorilla World will be closed until further notice.