Four-Year-Old Who Fell Into Cincinnati Zoo’s Gorilla Enclosure Expected to Recover

iStock/Thinkstock(CINCINNATI) --  A 4-year-old boy escaped with serious -- albeit non-life-threatening -- injuries Saturday after he crawled through a barrier at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden and into a gorilla enclosure, where he was picked up by a 400-pound, 17-year-old male gorilla, the zoo said.

After the boy -- who has not been identified -- crawled through a public barrier at Gorilla World around 4 p.m., he fell about 10 to 12 feet into a moat, where he was picked up and carried around by the gorilla, named Harambe, for about 10 minutes, the zoo's director, Thane Maynard, said.

A Cincinnati Zoo employee shot the gorilla when the child was in between his legs, and zoo employees then unlocked the gate and two fire fighters quickly retrieved the child.

Once the child was in a safe area, he was given a full trauma assessment, and then transported to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Monahan said.

The hospital is not releasing details on his condition, but police said the boy's injuries were non-life-threatening, according to ABC affiliate WCPO.

Once it had became apparent that the toddler was in the enclosure, two female gorillas in the exhibit were recalled immediately, but the male gorilla remained in the yard with the child, the zoo said in a statement.

There were already fire department personnel at the zoo because of a sick person, and they responded immediately to the pen, District Fire Chief Marc Monahan said. When they got to the gorilla pen they saw the gorilla who violently dragging and throwing the child, he said.

"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."

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.  

Maynard called it "a sad day" at the zoo, but credited the zoo team with saving the young boy's life. "The zoo security teams quick response saved the child's life," he said in a statement. "We are all devastated that this tragic accident resulted in the death of a critically-endangered gorilla. This is a huge loss for the zoo family and the gorilla population worldwide.”

Harambe came to Cincinnati in 2015 from the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. On Friday, the zoo posted on it Facebook page that Harambe had turned 17.

 The zoo has also posted videos of Harambe adjusting to life at the facility.

The zoo will be open on Sunday, but Gorilla World will be closed until further notice.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Check Also

Charlottesville mayor to issue statement on Robert E. Lee statue

Charlottesville mayor to issue statement on Robert E. Lee statueMark Wilson/Getty Images(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer will issue a statement Friday afternoon after canceling a news conference at which he was expected to "make a major announcement" regarding the local statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and the legacy of the woman killed during a protest sparked by the city's plans to remove the statue.

His news conference had been scheduled for noon on Friday, but the mayor tweeted Friday morning that "we are canceling today’s press conference and instead issuing a statement in the afternoon."

FYI all: we are canceling today’s press conference and instead issuing a statement in the afternoon. Stay tuned.

— Mike Signer (@MikeSigner) August 18, 2017

FYI, the reason for the change is we decided a statement rather than a press event was the best medium for the ideas I want to convey today.

— Mike Signer (@MikeSigner) August 18, 2017

The statement comes six days after a Unite the Right rally sparked by Charlottesville's plan to remove the Lee statue from a local park turned deadly.

The rally was attended by neo-Nazis, skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members. They were met with hundreds of counterprotesters, which led to street brawls and violent clashes.

A driver plowed into counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer, 32, and injuring several others. The suspected driver is in custody, facing charges including second-degree murder.

Despite the "painful" event, "we’re not going to let them define us,” Signer told ABC News earlier this week of the agitators.

"They’re not going to tell our story," he said. "We’re going to tell our story. And outsiders -- their time has come and gone. This city is back on their feet, and we’re going to be better than ever despite this."

Signer compared his hopes for Charlottesville's recovery to the aftermath of the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting in June 2015 that killed nine people. The gunman in that attack said he wanted to start a race war, but the tragedy instead united the city.

"There’s a memorial right now in front of Charlottesville City Hall that’s flowers and a heart that talks about the love that we have here. Those are the images that are going to replace these horrific ones from this weekend. That’s the work that we have as a country," Signer said.

"That’s what happened in Charleston. There were those horrible images of those people bloodied and killed and weeping from the church. But they were replaced quickly, steadily, by the work that started to happen. By people who said, 'You’re not going to tell our story for us. We’re going to tell our story.'

"And that’s what’s happening in this community. That’s my work as the mayor here -- is not to allow these hateful people who just don’t get this country to define us," he said. "And they’re not going to define us."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.