The escape of a large silverback gorilla from its enclosure at London zoo “could have finished very otherwise”, a top wildlife group has said, calling for an urgent inquiry.
The Born Free Foundation said the event was a “startling reminder” of keeping dangerous wild animals of the hazards.
Visitors to the popular draw described fearing for their safety as they were ordered to take cover in buildings when the 184kg (29-stone) man ape got from its den on Thursday evening.
As goalkeepers desperately attempted to find the animal, that was described by witnesses as agitated armed police were deployed at the central London zoo. The gorilla was eventually tranquillised and returned to its enclosure.
A zoo official said members of the people were never in any danger as the western lowland gorilla, called Kumbuka, had remained in a secure keeper region. An investigation was launched into the “small episode”, they included.
On the other hand, the Born Free Foundation has called for an inquiry and for the government advisory body, the zoos expert committee, to investigate the safety and welfare of great apes.
Called on the authorities to raise penalties for attractions if they may be found to have set visitors or creatures in danger.
There were no reports of injuries in Thursday’s episode and Kumbuka was later seen “up and grumbling and socializing with the rest of his gorilla family”, said Malcolm Fitzpatrick, curator of mammals at the zoo.
“ Kumbuka was tranquillised and returned and Our staff could respond promptly to his lairs.”
Fitzpatrick would not affirm if there were keepers in the place at the time and said the public gorilla seeing zone had just a “handful” of folks there.
He added: Were any of our visitors in any danger. The gorilla failed to get out of the safe space, there were just about 100 visitors.”
Neuropsychologist Jonathan Mall was at a seminar at the zoo and saw after the alarm was raised at least 20 individuals armed with guns arrive at the exhibits.
The 33-year-old, from Hamburg in Germany, and other visitors were forced to hide inside a fowl draw for around half an hour while staff brought Kumbuka .
He said: “I was kind of frightened, to tell the truth, because we were in a space that is really shut where everything is green and amazing but there could be a gorilla hiding behind every bush.”
Based on the zoo’s web site, Kumbuka is one of at least seven gorillas. The £5m section was started by the Duke of Edinburgh in 2007, then the greatest investment at the zoo for 40 years.
A report said that in the situation of a dangerous creature escaping it was “ unlikely” although it had no concerns about animal enclosures the present perimeter fence would be sufficient to arrest them.
It warned that if they escaped there would be nothing to stop them roaming free, and said marksmen with tranquilliser darts would have little time to react. 12 squirrel monkeys escaped from their enclosure the year before.
In May, goalkeepers at an US zoo shot dead a gorilla after it caught a four-year-old lad who fell into a moat. Harambe, a 17-year old, 400lb-plus male western lowland, was killed after the child fell into the enclosure.