Story highlights

Trump said it was a tough call

But added the child could have been hurt or killed

New York CNN  — 

Donald Trump said Tuesday that a Cincinnati zoo “probably had no choice” but to kill a gorilla after a young boy had entered his enclosure.

“It was a very tough call,” the presumptive Republican nominee said at a press conference at Trump Tower in New York when he was asked about the controversy.

Trump said the gorilla appeared “beautiful” and “calm,” and almost mother-like with a toddler that came into his habitat.

A 3-year-old boy slipped into the enclosure of a 17-year-old male gorilla named Harambe, who quickly took hold of the child. At times, the gorilla sat still with the toddler, but those quiet periods were interrupted by bouts of knocking the child against a wall and dragging him around a shallow moat.

The gorilla was quickly killed by zoo keepers, causing an emotional debate over whether zoo staff did the right thing.

“I think it’s a very tough call,” Trump said. “It was amazing because there were moments with the gorilla – the way he held that child, it was almost like a mother holding a baby. Looked so beautiful and calm.”

“And there were moments where it looked pretty dangerous. I don’t think they had a choice,” he added. “It’s too bad there wasn’t another way. But I thought it was so beautiful to watch that powerful, almost 500-pound gorilla the way he dealt with that little boy.”

But, Trump reiterated, it only takes “one second” for an animal that large to hurt someone.

“It just takes one little flick of his finger,” he said. “And I will tell you, they probably had no choice.”