Zoo staff clears branches from chimp exhibit after escape - KCTV5

Zoo staff clears branches from chimp exhibit after escape

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

It was a wild afternoon Thursday after several chimpanzees escaped from their enclosure at the Kansas City Zoo.

Before the zoo closed on Thursday one chimp managed to tear down a large limb from a tree and use it to climb onto the cement wall surrounding their exhibit and he convinced several others to do the same.

Seven chimps got up on the tall cement wall surrounding their enclosure, three got down on the other side and the other four stayed up on the wall and never came down.

Now there are some changes underway to hopefully prevent that from happening again in the future.

The chimps were not on exhibit Friday as staff spent the morning clearing the primate exhibit of branches and looking for weak parts of the trees and possible branches that the chimps could use.

Workers with chainsaws went up into the trees, cutting down old branches that may soon fall into the enclosure and new branches that might be accessible to the chimpanzees. They also walked the very spacious exhibit grounds looking for anything that can be used as a tool to bridge one area to another.

It might seem silly, but the staff was "thinking like a chimp" as they went about their task. That means what looks like something unusable and unworkable to people might be right up a chimp's alley.

Randy Wisthoff, CEO and executive director of the Kansas City Zoo, said case in point was Thursday's escape that started with a piece of wood.

"That piece of wood that he had yesterday was not that big. You think, 'there's no way an animal could put that much weight on it and it would hold him.' It wasn't that piece of wood, but the way he leveraged it into that piece of wall and how he used it and that's what we've got to go up in those trees and try to find," he said.

The exhibit will remain closed while it's cleared and the chimps will be kept indoors.

When everything happened on Thursday, a ‘code red' was called for the entire park.

"'Code red' means ‘get everybody that's in the zoo into a safe place.' Then we start to analyze with the animal crew and the vet crew go to work and do what they need to do. Our other staff keeps visitors safe and monitors the situation and has radio command with everybody," Wisthoff said.

At this point the zoo gates are locked and no one gets in or out. The people inside could end up anywhere on the grounds.

"Buildings, behind the scenes, any place where we can put people where we think it's safe. We may put them in a keeper area. They may be in places they've never been to in the zoo, but the highest priority at that time is to get them safe," Wisthoff said.

Many may wonder why police aren't called in. Zoo officials said their emergency protocol dictates if the incident remains on the zoo grounds, they handle it since they're the animal experts.

If the animal leaves zoo property then they'll get the local authorities involved.

Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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