Keepers left doors unlocked before gorillas escaped at zoo

02/21/2012 12:34 AM

05/16/2014 6:08 PM

Sunday’s gorilla escape at the Kansas City Zoo occurred because two keepers neglected to lock two interior cage doors.

“Obviously, there will be disciplinary action,” Zoo Director Randy Wisthoff said Monday as officials continued to investigate exactly what happened.

The incident began about 2:15 p.m. when two adult male gorillas got out of their unlocked interior cages and into the hallway of the holding building where keepers attend to them. The keepers hurried into the outdoor exhibit, which was empty at the time. A third keeper gave them a ladder, and the two employees climbed out of the exhibit.

During all of this, the two males had access to the outdoor yard but not to public areas of the zoo.

The zoo has three gorilla populations: a male and two females, a solitary older male and the two half brothers that escaped. Only one of the populations can be allowed outdoors at a time. Because of the nice weather Sunday, the zoo was rotating the animals to give more of them a chance to be outside. The male and two females were out in the morning and had been brought inside so the two males could go out.

It was during this transition that the keepers neglected to secure the locks. The animals, each weighing more than 400 pounds, are capable of causing great injury to humans.

“We will sit down with everybody and go over the protocols,” Wisthoff said. “They’ve worked so far. If we identify something that needs to be modified, changed or rethought, we are fully prepared to do that once we understand exactly what happened.”

A similar event in the same area of the zoo occurred last May when a keeper neglected to padlock a door to a holding pen for red-capped mangabey. A male monkey escaped briefly but never made contact with the public.

Nor did the gorillas. Zoo visitors were herded into safe areas during the event. Zoo staffers were able to prod the gorillas into the outdoor exhibit area with water hoses, and the incident was over about 5:45 p.m. The animals later re-entered their holding building. The gorilla exhibit is back open to the public and the animals are on display.

“I doubt if they remember,” Wisthoff said of the gorillas’ adventure.

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