Mike, before the escape. Riverbanks Zoo file photo.
A gorilla escaped his enclosure Friday, June 12, 2009, at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, in Columbia, South Carolina. The ape injured a worker before returning to his holding area on his own about five minutes later.
Zoo spokeswoman Lindsay Burke says a piece of bamboo drooped into the gorilla’s enclosure, and the animal was able to climb it and escape its cage.
The young food service worker, an employee of Aramark Corporation, was hit to the ground by the escaping gorilla. The zoo employee was treated at a hospital and released, said company spokesman Dan Smith. Aramark runs the cafeterias at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. Smith declined to identify the worker or talk about the person’s injuries.
The zoo was packed with day care groups and visitors, who were ushered to indoor exhibits or outside the gates for about 45 minutes after the gorilla escaped.
The gorilla got out about a half-hour after the zoo’s 9 a.m. opening and returned to the gated sleeping area connected to his outdoor enclosure, which is separated from the public by different barriers in different spots, including mesh and plexiglass.
A second of three gorillas in the exhibit also went into the sleeping area when the escaped animal returned, but it took 40 minutes to coax a third male into the holding area, Burke said.
Burke said officials think that of the zoo’s three western lowland gorillas, the escapee was a 16-year-old male named Mike. Also in the exhibit are 24-year-old Chaka and 15-year-old Kimya. The all-male group was transferred from the Philadelphia Zoo on July 13, 2004.
The zoo was shut down temporary, but it didn’t stop at least one human from figuratively opening his mouth and inserting his hominoid foot.
Unfortunately, some politicians should not mix current events with politics.
Trey Walker, South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster’s advisor, posted a news update on his Facebook site about the escape. Then, a longtime South Carolina Republican activist and former State Senate candidate Rusty DePass left, at Walker’s Facebook site, this comment about the escaped gorilla: “I’m sure it’s just one of Michelle’s ancestors — probably harmless.”