A “critically-endangered” gorilla was fatally shot after a 4-year-old boy fell into his enclosure in the Cincinnati Zoo on Saturday afternoon, officials said.
The incident began around 4 p.m. when the little boy crawled through a barrier and landed in a moat. He was then picked up by the 400-pound gorilla and dragged around for some 10 minutes.
“Harambe, our 17-year-old gorilla male who is a great big animal … went down and got him, carried him into moat and was moving him around,” Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard told local television station WXIX.
The boy began screaming shortly after the gorilla grabbed him, according to witnesses.
“It seemed very much by our professional team … to be a life-threatening situation. And so the choice was made to put down or shoot Harambe,” Maynard said.
Even though zoo officials said the boy wasn’t under attack, they decided nevertheless to shoot the animal rather than tranquilize him because they thought the latter option would be too risky for the boy, CNN reported.
“The Zoo security team’s quick response saved the child’s life, Maynard said in a statement posted to the zoo’s website.
Harambe was killed one day after his 17th birthday.
“We are all devastated that this tragic accident resulted in the death of a critically-endangered gorilla,” Maynard said.
The unidentified boy was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, according to police.
The CNN Wire contributed to this story.