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Gorilla exhibit reopens at N.C. Zoo

Posted June 15, 2010

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— An animal curator at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro said Tuesday that the likelihood that a gorilla could escape the facility's enclosure was extremely slim, despite video from the weekend that showed an animal reaching the top of a glass wall while spectators screamed.

NC Zoo: Animal enclosures are secure NC Zoo: Animal enclosures are secure

Erica Bullins captured the scene on video Sunday before calling 911.

"Looking back, (I) probably should've just got out of there, but (I) was completely caught up in the moment," Bullins said.

The zoo closed the gorilla exhibit after the incident so workers could make sure it is secure.

In the video, a female gorilla uses a fallen branch as a ladder, then clings to the top of the wall. Tom Gillespie, a spokesman for the NC Zoo, said the branch was likely felled by high winds Saturday.

NC Zoo: Animal enclosures are secure NC Zoo: Animal enclosures are secure

Zoo employees check the enclosures every day, Gillespie said, but may have overlooked a branch weakened by the storms with later fell. Horticulturists re-checked all the trees for loose branches Monday before reopening the gorilla habitat to visitors Tuesday afternoon.

Even if the gorilla had been able to reach the top of the wall, the animal, called Acacia, would have had a slim chance of escaping, said Ken Reininger, general curator of animal collections for the zoo.

He pointed out that the gorilla in the video is the zoo's smallest, weighing in at about 170 pounds. Any other gorilla likely would have been too heavy for the branch to hold.

The wall of the enclosure is topped with a ledge, invisible from the ground, that is electrified and  would likely have kept the gorilla from getting over the wall, Reininger said. Gorillas, especially females, are not aggressive and most likely to be shy around people, he added.

Reininger called Sunday's incident a "freak accident," but acknowledged that there is no way to predict what the animal might have done if she got loose.

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  • wcumom Jun 16, 2010

    Her name is quiet befitting.

  • Adelinthe Jun 15, 2010

    Smart little thing. Like a toddler, just when you think you're one step ahead of them, you find out you're not.

    And for years and years, scientists said humans were the only animals smart enough to use tools. pfffttt

    They finally realized primates often use them, and they've found that elephants use branches for things too.

    We ain't as smart as we think we are.

    God bless.

    RB

  • Das G Jun 15, 2010

    I'm pretty sure the gorilla is smarter than the lady filming.

  • Smokin Jun 15, 2010

    Not King Kong, but real life. Remember the woman who had her face ripped off by a chimpanzee that was a house pet?

    Apples and oranges. Chimpanzees are definitely more aggressive, especially if they've been hand-raised and have no fear of humans. Gorillas are much "gentler" beasts. They're very social and she was probably just interested in what her distant relatives were doing on the other side of that wall.

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Jun 15, 2010

    I'm happy to see the zoo was careful, but not over reacting.

  • rescuefan Jun 15, 2010

    "Seems like notifying the zoo wasn't a bad idea but calling 911? I hope she was advised that this was over reacting. I say it is an emergency situation when the animal escapes. It is preventative if there is concern that they might.
    question_why"

    Yeah, because I am sure she had a phone book handy or had the zoo phone number already programmed into the phone. I mean, don't we all?

  • karla2 Jun 15, 2010

    This is exact thing happened down at the SC Zoo in Columbia. It was the same time of the year last year. Here is an article about that episode: http://www.wistv.com/Global/story.asp?S=10522681. That gorilla got out and thankfully no one really got injured.

  • question_why Jun 15, 2010

    Seems like notifying the zoo wasn't a bad idea but calling 911? I hope she was advised that this was over reacting. I say it is an emergency situation when the animal escapes. It is preventative if there is concern that they might.

  • debnamdavis Jun 15, 2010

    I dont blame the animal. They are very smart and to think of what that Gorilla is thinking...folk walking by with drinks, water, smiling, hitting the glass...Id want to try and get out at my first opportunity.

  • Earth Brooks Jun 15, 2010

    "i think alot of ppl were over reacting ,woman in the video seriously annoying....gonna call 911 then stand there waiting for something else to happen w/ little children."

    Exactly.

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