Gorilla Shot and Killed After 4-Year-Old Boy Enters Zoo Enclosure

May 29, 2016 Updated: May 29, 2016

A 4-year-old boy who fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden escaped with serious—but non-life-threatening injuries.

In the enclosure, the boy was picked up by a 17-year-old, 400-pound gorilla, named Harambe. The gorilla was shot and killed by a Cincinnati Zoo employee when the child was in between the ape’s legs. After shooting the gorilla, employees opened the gate and two firefighters retrieved the child.

The boy—who has not been identified—fell about 10 to 12 feet into a moat, where he was picked up and carried around by the gorilla for about 10 minutes. The boy was not seriously injured in the fall.

“They made a tough choice and they made the right choice because they saved that little boy’s life,” the zoo’s director, Thane Maynard, told ABC News. “It could have been very bad.”

“The choice was made to put down, or shoot, Harambe, so he’s gone,” Maynard added to the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “We’ve never had a situation like this at the Cincinnati Zoo where a dangerous animal needed to be dispatched in an emergency situation.”

Witnesses told WCPO-TV that the gorilla was dragging the boy around the enclosure before the zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team responded. A woman could be heard saying, “Mommy’s right here” as well as “mommy loves you.”

After the shooting, the boy was taken to a safe area before he was sent to the hospital.

Maynard said the gorilla didn’t appear to attack the child, but he said it is “extremely strong” in an agitated incident.

A tranquilizer dart wouldn’t have acted quickly enough to have knocked it out immediately.

“The decision was not made lightly,” Maynard said, adding the zoo is in “the business” of protecting threatened animals. “Lowland gorillas are very endangered animals. There aren’t many in captivity. But it has the proper ending.”