10 Apr 2009

Gorilla gives up freedom for bananas

4:05 pm on 10 April 2009

A nine-year-old gorilla used a palm frond to escape from his enclosure at Melbourne Zoo to go walkabout before being recaptured with the aid of bananas.

Yakini's big adventure began about 5pm local time near closing time at the zoo on Thursday when he grabbed hold of the frond and swung himself to freedom to go on a 20-minute stroll.

He managed to get as far as the elephant barn where keepers lured him in with the help of a bunch of bananas, giving vets the opportunity to sedate him with a dart.

Visitors were ushered into various buildings around the zoo while Yakini was in their midst, and no one was hurt in the incident.

General curator Dan Maloney said keepers, who had gone into their animal escape drill, admitted they had a great deal of luck with Yakini, who did not panic and was apparently looking for a secure place to hold up.

"I've worked in zoos for 25 years and you think you have seen it all, then something like this happens," Mr Maloney said.

"Yakini was really calm - he didn't panic and then went inside the elephant barn - we copped a lot of luck."

He said the gorilla seemed to be looking for a place that would make him feel secure and he took the opportunity to find safety in the elephant barn.

The gorilla was given a check-up including the taking of a blood sample and a dental examination to make sure he had not chipped any teeth.

Keepers have also gone into the enclosure to prune back the palm fronds.