Workers at the Cincinnati Zoo in the US state of Ohio shot and killed a gorilla on Saturday (local time) after a three-year-old boy fell into its enclosure, officials said.
The boy crawled through a barrier into the enclosure and fell into a moat around 4:00pm, zoo director Thane Maynard told reporters.
The 17-year-old male gorilla, named Harambe, “went down and got him,” he said.
Around 10 minutes later, the zoo’s dangerous animal response team shot and killed the gorilla.
Witnesses said the gorilla, which weighed more than 180 kilograms, dragged the screaming boy around the habitat.
“We just heard a child screaming, so when we went over there, we saw a little boy’s face… [and] we knew he was being dragged by the gorilla,” the witness told local media outlet WLWT.
“The gorilla took him to one end of his habitat and then the little boy started screaming again and the gorilla dragged him back again and this went on for a while.
“There was a lot of security around but security was panicked and they were just clearing the area.”
The zoo’s response team decided to shoot the gorilla rather than tranquilise him because a tranquiliser would not have taken effect immediately, Mr Maynard said.
“It seemed by our own dangerous animals response team to be a life-threatening situation,” he said because the gorilla had been dragging the boy around.
“They saved that little boy’s life.”
The child was hospitalised with injuries that were not life-threatening, media quoted the police as saying.
“We’ve never had a situation like this… they made the right choice,” Mr Maynard said.
Three gorillas were in the enclosure when the boy fell in the moat. Two were called out of the enclosure immediately but Harambe stayed in the yard.
The zoo houses 11 gorillas, according to its website.
This story originally appeared on ABC News.
© 2015 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. Read the ABC Disclaimer here.