Chimpanzees Build Makeshift Ladder, Break Free From Zoo Enclosure

Source: NPR | February 11, 2019 | Amy Held

They saw an opportunity and they seized it, set it up, then scaled it.

Some enterprising chimpanzees at the Belfast Zoo in Northern Ireland’s capital, propped a tree branch against the wall of their enclosure Saturday to make an improvised, yet sturdy, ladder.

“Don’t escape, you bad little gorilla,” a child chimed in as stunned zoo visitors filmed the breakout. (She was right about the absconding, if not the actual animal). Two chimpanzees manage to make it to the top of the wall as a third attempts to scramble up and join them. One perched above scurries away. The child repeats with more urgency, “Mom, it’s escaping!”

Later, video shows a chimpanzee striding down an embankment and onto a roadway, leaving the wall of its enclosure behind it.

Alyn Cairns, a zoo manager, told the BBC that the escape was short-lived and the animals went back inside the enclosure themselves.

But the Belfast City Council, which operates the zoo, said in a statement released to media outlets that “the animal was quickly returned to the rest of the group by zookeepers.”

A recent wind storm is thought to have knocked down the branch, setting the stage for the caper. Zookeepers were sure to remove the branch.

“We like things to be natural in their enclosure, to have trees in it, but we will review it,” Cairns said. “We may have to remove the trees or make them a smaller level.”

The city council said despite chimpanzees’ natural curiosity, “this is a highly unusual event.”


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