Cincinnati, Ohio – A local zoo shot dead a 17-year-old lowland gorilla after a child had fallen into its enclosure on Saturday afternoon. The animal did not attack the child, but the incident was qualified as a life-threatening situation due to the size of the gorilla.

The Cincinnati Zoo decided to end the Harambe’ life, a 400-pound gorilla, after it carried the 4-year-old around its habitats for nearly ten minutes, which the zoo personnel considered a dangerous situation, according to a press briefing by the Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard.

Harambe shot dead to protect child
Harambe, Cincinnati’s Zoo 400-pound gorilla, was shot dead after a 4-year-old boy fell into its enclosure. Credit: USA Today

The unidentified boy was taken to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital immediately with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. The boy appeared to have climbed under a railing and through the wire before falling about 10 feet into the Gorilla World exhibit, Maynard said.

Although Harambe did not appear to be attacking the 4-year-old boy, the animal was “an extremely strong animal” in an agitated situation, Maynard said. The zoo employees decided against just tranquilizing the animal because this can take several minutes to work and the animal can have an unexpected reaction, he added.

“The zoo’s in the business of taking care of endangered animals, and we do not want to be in the situation in which they have to be killed,” Maynard said. “But all sorts of things could happen in a situation like that.”

However, Fire Department emergency responders said they witnessed after their arrival to the scene a gorilla who was violently dragging and throwing the child, according to Chief Marc Monahan in a statement.

Harambe shot dead to protect child
The gorilla is seen next to the 4-year-old boy after he fell into its enclosure. Credit: Huffington Post

An endangered species

Harambe was a western lowland gorilla whose species is on the critically endangered species list, according to World Wildlife. They can be found in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea, as reported by CNN.

Since the opening of the zoo, this is the first time a situation like the one on Saturday took place, the zoo director said. Harambe was expected to be a father soon and his birthday was this past Friday.

According to Brittany Nicely of Dayton, who was visiting the zoo at the moment of the incident, she saw the little boy in the bushes past the small fence area. Nicely tried to grab for him and telling him to come back.

Everyone started screaming as it happened so fast, she said. The gorilla rushed toward the boy and led him by the arm through the water in the enclosure. Nicely said that at first the gorilla seemed protective and only alarmed by all the screaming around him, as reported by the News Sentinel.

After the information about the incident had been known, the incident triggered huge social media response. Many criticized the decision of ending the animal’s life and the parents of the child who let the boy out of their site.

Lt. Steve Saunders, spokesman for the Cincinnati Police Department, assured that no charges were being pursued against the child’s parents. The zoo is open this Sunday although the Gorillas World will remain closed until further notice.

Source: CNN