WASHINGTON (AFP) - Workers at the Cincinnati Zoo in the US state of Ohio shot and killed a gorilla on Saturday (May 28) 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 4pm (1600 GMT), zoo director Thane Maynard told reporters.
The gorilla, a 17-year-old male named Harambe weighing more than 400 pounds (180kg), "went down and got him", he said.
Witnesses said the gorilla dragged the screaming boy around the habitat, local media reported.
The zoo's dangerous animal response team shot and killed the gorilla around 10 minutes after the boy first entered it.
He was hospitalised with injuries that were not life-threatening, media quoted the police as saying.
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. "They saved that little boy's life."
The zoo houses 11 gorillas, according to its website.
"We've never had a situation like this," Mr Maynard said.
Twitter user Mike Donovan Lacy wrote: "Parents, watch your children. Doing so will protect your children... AND the animals."
Sharon Andreas wrote that she was "very angry about the gorilla having to be killed due to the stupidity of parents".
Jen Wood tweeted: "So the kid goes into the gorillas enclosure so the gorilla gets shot dead? Injustice there.... "