Chimp exhibit at Honolulu Zoo closed indefinitely after ape's escape

Published: May. 14, 2017 at 6:42 PM HST|Updated: May. 15, 2017 at 10:12 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
Pu'iwa the chimp. (Image: Hawaii News Now/file)
Pu'iwa the chimp. (Image: Hawaii News Now/file)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The chimpanzee exhibit at the Honolulu Zoo is closed indefinitely after an ape escaped late Sunday morning.

According to a city spokesperson, a chimp named Pu'iwa scaled the wall of the exhibit around noon before jumping off into the chimp holding area. The spokesperson says the chimp never made it into a public space, but some zoo patrons were cleared from the area.

"We were about a quarter of the way through and we were told there was a code red. We were told to leave," zoo visitor Jenna Kobiela said. "They made sure everyone was evacuated to the front, and they had told us a chimp had gotten out of its enclosed area."

Pu'iwa, zoo officials say, is the same chimp that escaped from the ape exhibit three years ago under similar circumstances. City officials say it took zoo staff ten minutes to get the animal back into his pen.

They also say the public was never in any danger.

"The zoo is a safe place and our staff is highly trained. I want to commend them for the great job they did yesterday. They know their job and they got out there and they got the public away from the area and the animal contined within a really short time frame," said Linda Santos, assistant zoo director.

Keepers say the ape somehow made holes in the concrete, then used them to scale the wall and boost himself over two electric wires. Zoo officials tell us they inspect the exhibits on a daily basis and believe the damage was done sometime yesterday.

"This is definitely not a pattern of animals getting out.  It is where we have teenagers in the group of chimps, and so they're showing their dominance or assertiveness within the troop," said Santos.

The zoo says there is  possibility Pu'iwa might leave this state, though they maintain it has nothing to do with his escapes. Offiicals are thinking about trading him with another zoo because he is perfect for breeding.

But he isn't the only animal that has ever been on the loose inside the Honolulu Zoo.

In the summer of 2012, Elvis the ape was able to leap over a moat from a wooden feeding platform to grab on to the outside wall and climb out.

Zookeepers didn't think he was capable of making the 12-foot leap. In a successful effort to get Elvis back in to his cage, zookeepers used CO2 cannisters to guide him back.

And in 2008, a Sumatran male tiger named Berani bolted from his enclosure after zoo officials believe an employee accidentally left the gate to the tiger exhibit open.

In all of the cases, no humans or animals were seriously injured.

Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.