CINCINNATI — A 4-year-old boy was hospitalized and a gorilla was shot and killed Saturday at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden after the child climbed into the gorilla's enclosure, officials say.

Cincinnati police and emergency crews responded to a report of a child falling into the exhibit at about 4 p.m. Saturday. Police confirmed the child was taken to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center near the zoo and was treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Cincinnati Zoo President Thane Maynard said the boy crawled through a barrier and fell an estimated 10 to 12 feet into the moat surrounding the habitat. He said the boy was not seriously injured by the fall.

Maynard said the zoo's 17-year-old male western lowland gorilla, Harambe, grabbed the boy and dragged him around. Two female gorillas were also in the enclosure.

The boy was with the 400-pound animal for about 10 minutes before the zoo's Dangerous Animal Response Team deemed the situation "life-threatening," Maynard said.

"The choice was made to put down, or shoot, Harambe, so he's gone," Maynard said. "We've never had a situation like this at the Cincinnati Zoo where a dangerous animal needed to be dispatched in an emergency situation."

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Maynard said the Dangerous Animal Response Team followed procedures, which they practice in drills. He said in the 38-year history of the zoo's gorilla exhibit that they've never had anyone get into the enclosure.

"It's a sad day all the way around," Maynard said. "They made a tough choice. They made the right choice because they saved that little boy's life. It could have been very bad."

The decision to shoot Harambe instead of tranquilizing was made in the interest of the boy's safety, Maynard said.

"In an agitated situation, it may take quite awhile for the tranquilizer to take effect," he explained, "At the instant he would be hit, he would have a dramatic response. You don't hit him and he falls over."

Maynard also explained that while Harambe didn't attack the child, the animal's size and strength posed a great danger.

"All sort of things could have happened in a situation like that. He certainly was at risk," Maynard said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and little boy.”

He said that zoo officials have not yet spoken with the family of the child. Zoo officials will be reviewing the security of the enclosure and their procedures, but they said they have no plans to stop the gorilla program.

Harambe was born at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas before he was moved to Cincinnati in September 2014. Another gorilla, Gladys, named for her home zoo, also come to Cincinnati from Brownville.

Western lowland gorillas are one of the four gorilla subspecies. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, populations of the animal are hard to estimate due to the dense, remote rainforests where they make their home, but experts say between 175,000 to 225,000 could live mostly in Congo, but also in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

In 2009, the International Species Information System counted 158 male western lowland gorillas and 183 females in captivity in the United States.

"Harambe was good guy. He was a youngster who started to grow up. There were hopes to breed him," Maynard said. "It will be a loss to the gene pool of lowland gorillas."

The zoo plans to reopen Sunday morning, but Gorilla World will remain closed until further notice.