- Associated Press - Thursday, June 2, 2016

PITTSBURGH (AP) - An official at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium said if a child had entered its gorilla exhibit and was in danger, it would have no choice but to shoot the animal, just as the Cincinnati Zoo did last week.

The zoo’s president and CEO, Barbara Baker, made the comments Wednesday, days after a 3-year-old boy entered a gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo and authorities fatally shot the animal to save the boy’s life.

“Human life is first and foremost,” Baker said. “Our policy would have been the same as in Cincinnati. We would have done the same thing.”

The Pittsburgh zoo has an emergency weapons team of eight to 10 people trained to shoot animals if necessary, Baker said. The team, which has weapons stored in lockers around the 77-acre property, responded in 2012 after a 2-year-old boy fell into an African painted dog exhibit and was mauled to death.

The Cincinnati Zoo has been criticized for not trying to tranquilize the gorilla, but Baker said an attempt to sedate the animal could have put the boy in more danger.

“Typically, if an animal like that is darted, the animal moves away, and that could have caused more problems,” Baker said. “It’s easy to second-guess those situations. But in the end we just have to be very careful.”

The Pittsburgh zoo in recent years has increased the number of safety drills it conducts for situations like the one Cincinnati faced Saturday.

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