Honolulu Zoo exhibit to remain closed after chimpanzee escapes

Honolulu Zoo exhibit to remain closed after chimpanzee escapes 6PM Update
Published: Jun. 25, 2014 at 9:41 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Pu'iwa the chimpanzee gave zookeepers at the Honolulu Zoo quite the surprise. Fitting since pu'iwa means surprise in Hawaiian. Sources say the 15 year old male chimp used a barrel to get out of the enclosure, then jumped back in and then bolted again.

"Anytime you have an incident with the escape of any animal there is a certain element of risk," said Jeff Wilkinson, Honolulu Zoo Director.

Because of that risk zookeepers bypassed the bananas and shot him with a tranquilizer dart. They then moved Pu'iwa to his sleeping quarters. He was out of the enclosure for about an hour but no one was hurt.

"Chimpanzees are not only incredibly athletic but very very clever. Zoo's all over the world are always trying to evolve and create better exhibits that minimize the risk of escape," said Wilkinson.

Neighbors say it added some excitement to a typical Tuesday.

"They were concerned for people's safety and they were just asking them to move outside," said Rolf Nordahl, who was walking his dog in front of the zoo at the time of the escape.

Back in 1997 chimps escaped from the same exhibit because of overhanging trees. Those have since been trimmed back. In August 2012 Elvis the siamang ape also made a brief break for freedom scratching an employee in the process. A tiger also walked out of its enclosure when an employee didn't close the gate.

As for the chimps this time around the exhibit will be closed until the investigation is complete.

"Public safety is our number one priority here so we want to make absolutely sure that this isn't going to happen again," said Wilkinson.

The zoo itself was open Wednesday with plenty of field trips and tourists who were impressed with the escape.

"He's smart enough to get out," said Mick David, from Sydney, Australia.

"It's just mother nature. That's the way I would look at it. It wouldn't stop me from coming," said Ron Branson, from Big Bear Lake, California.

Pu'iwa was born here at the Honolulu Zoo. He appears to have recovered from the sedation. They also say he may have even surprised himself that he was able to get out.

Follow Tim Sakahara:   

Copyright 2014 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.