Elvis the ape escapes from zoo enclosure, injures volunteer

Elvis the ape escapes from zoo enclosure, injures volunteer

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Elvis the siamang gibbon is safely back in a confined space tonight after a brief getaway from his home at the Honolulu Zoo yesterday afternoon.  The ape had 15 minutes out of his enclosure and now is getting his 15 minutes of fame.

Elvis did more than leave the building, he left his enclosure.  The 14 year old siamang ape weighs 30 pounds. He's relatively small but with a long wingspan.  He managed to leap about 12 feet from the feeding platform over the moat and to the outside wall where he climbed out.  It's a feat he's never done in his six years at the zoo.

"The first time you hear code red animal escape your heart stops," said Manuel Mollinedo, Honolulu Zoo Director.

The public was evacuated from that area.  The zoo veterinarian had a tranquilizer dart ready but didn't need to use it.  Instead staff used CO2 canisters that make noise and shoots cold gas.  That helped coax the ape back into his quarters 15 minutes after the escape.  But he did scratch a zoo volunteer breaking the skin causing a minor injury.

"(The volunteer) was one of the people that was close to the animal. I guess the animal was panicked or something. People were really responding to try and get the animal back in there," said Mollinedo.

Mollinedo says the zoo staff conducts drills four times a year on how to respond to animal escapes. He's thankful this incident wasn't worse.

"I don't know if he would go out of his way to attack people. Our biggest concern is had it gotten out of here we have a number of trees around here. It would have climbed up a tree it would have taken a monumental effort to get him back down. Then we probably would to have darted him," said Mollinedo.

"As someone coming to the zoo you don't expect to come here and hear oh they got out yesterday, but I think it's a neat story at the same time," said Jen Manasco, a visitor from Great Falls, Montana.

Now Elvis and his fellow siamang Mahina, the older and presumably wiser female, must stay in a cage until the zoo can figure out what changes need to be made.

"We're looking at the enclosure. We're examining it to see what modifications we would have to do if we reintroduce him into this exhibit. We're also looking at a couple other exhibits that might provide additional security from the standpoint of creating a larger moated area," said Mollinedo.

Too much monkey business means Elvis will have a little less conversation with guests and instead sing the jailhouse rock until at least next week.

It's unknown what prompted the escape but one theory, yesterday was the 35th anniversary of the real Elvis Presley's death.  Perhaps Elvis the ape was all shook up over the news.

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