The Cincinnati Zoo closed its gorilla exhibit after a special zoo response team shot and killed a 17-year-old gorilla that grabbed and dragged a 4-year-old boy who fell into a moat. Zoo officials said the boy fell after he climbed through a public barrier at the Gorilla World exhibit Saturday afternoon. He was picked up out of the moat and dragged by the gorilla for about 10 minutes. Authorities said the child, who has not been identified, fell 10 to 12 feet. He was taken to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, adds ABC News, where he is expected to recover. Zoo Director Thane Maynard said the zoo's dangerous animal response team decided the boy was in "a life-threatening situation" and that they needed to put down the 400-pound-plus male gorilla named Harambe. "They made a tough choice and they made the right choice because they saved that little boy's life," Maynard said. "It could have been very bad."
But he mourned the loss of the gorilla, who came to Cincinnati in 2015 from the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. "We are all devastated that this tragic accident resulted in the death of a critically-endangered gorilla," he said. "This is a huge loss for the zoo family and the gorilla population worldwide." Two female gorillas also were in the enclosure, but ABC notes that they were removed quickly. Maynard said the gorilla didn't appear to be attacking the child, but he said it was "an extremely strong" animal in an agitated situation. He said tranquilizing the gorilla wouldn't have knocked it out immediately, leaving the boy in danger. It was the first time that the team had killed a zoo animal in such an emergency situation, Maynard said. He called it "a very sad day." Maynard said the exhibit remains safe, but has been closed until further notice. (Read more Cincinnati Zoo stories.)