The 17-year-old, 400-pound male lowland gorilla, Harambe, was shot and killed by the zoo’s dangerous animal response team about 10 minutes after the boy made it into the enclosure.
Zoo director Thayne Maynard said that the boy crawled through the railing and fell into the moat just before 4 p.m. A Cincinnati fire department incident report says that the gorilla “was violently dragging and throwing the child” when they were called.
The child was in between the gorilla’s legs when the gorilla was shot, fire officials said.
“It’s a sad day all around,” Maynard said. “They made a tough choice and they made the right choice, because they saved that little boy’s life; it could have been very bad.”
Three gorillas were in the enclosure when the boy fell in the moat. Two were called out of the enclosure immediately, but the third — Harambe — stayed in the yard.
One woman said that she saw the gorilla drag the boy from one end of his habitat to the other.
Witnesses said they saw a woman crying and that the child was conscious during the rescue.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has not released information on the child. His name has not been released.
The gorilla was not tranquilized because, when the animal is agitated, Maynard said, the tranquilizer may not take effect right away.
The zoo houses 11 gorillas, according to its website. Gorilla World will be closed indefinitely, but the zoo will open as usual Sunday, the zoo said.
In March, two polar bears breached security and made it into a secure hallway, but not loose in the zoo, before they were contained.
The zoo posted a video of Harambe on Facebook in January.