Three teenage gorillas have done damage to their dens that could run into thousands of pounds. They pulled out water pipes and ripped up electrical wiring and ducts after getting into a space to which they usually don’t have access.
The three got into a secure corridor in the off-show dens of the Ape Centre at Paignton Zoo. They were at all times behind two layers of security; there was never any possibility of them escaping into public areas.
The three, who all weigh between 150 and 200 kilos, are Western lowland gorillas. 14 year old N’Dowe, 15 year old Kiondo and Kivu, also aged 15, vandalised parts of the animal care area. The Zoo’s oldest gorilla, Pertinax, aged 35, was not involved. Staff responded quickly and professionally, with vets, senior animal staff and managers attending. No visitors and no staff were at risk and after discussion it was decided to keep the rest of the park open. Power and water were turned off to prevent animals being injured; no staff and no gorillas were hurt.
Experts tried to tranquilise the three primates, but were unable to dart them together or at points where they could all be seen to be unconscious, so no staff were able to enter the area.
Eventually, animal staff decided to stop for the night to ease any stress on the animals and allow them to rest. The animals were monitored overnight. On Saturday morning, things were resolved when two of the gorillas were darted and one was brought to the far side of their island with food, meaning a door could be closed, separating the gorillas from the corridor and getting things back to normal.
The Ape Centre had been closed all week due to maintenance and refurbishment work. The Zoo’s maintenance team will assess the damage this week.
The charity’s bachelor group of Western lowland gorillas – a Critically Endangered species – plays a vital role in international gorilla conservation, providing somewhere for young males to grow up in a social environment. Some may move on to be the dominant males in bachelor or family groups in other collections as part of the European breeding programme. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring 01803 697500.