A group of chimpanzees at the Belfast Zoo staged an escape that would have made Steve McQueen proud, using a downed branch as a makeshift ladder and climbing out of their enclosure in the aftermath of a storm.
As the Guardian noted, the chimp breakout was captured on film by an astonished zoo visitor, who saw the primates work together to turn a branch into an escape ladder. Visitors said they saw the chimpanzees prop the branch against the side of their enclosure and then scale over the wall holding them inside.
Though most appeared to stay on the edges of the enclosure, some visitors said they saw one of the chimpanzees emerge from the bushes next to a path.
The video of the escape gained viral attention online, thanks in part to commentary from a child.
“Don’t escape, you bad little gorilla,” the child was heard yelling.
The child grew increasingly excited as more of the chimpanzees used the branch to hop to the top of the wall, which kept them contained in the enclosure.
“Mom, it’s escaping!” the boy yelled as a second chimpanzee joined the first escapee.
The video racked up more than 180,000 views online and prompted plenty of commentary about the ingenuity of the zoo animals to escape the exhibit. Zookeeper Alyn Cairns told the BBC that the chimpanzees took advantage of a storm that had swept through the area, leaving some large branches in their enclosure.
The Great (ape) Escape!!!
These chimps at Belfast Zoo used a broken tree branch as a ladder today.
Video credit: Danielle Monaghan and Dean McFaul pic.twitter.com/Y9pEVOI65y
— U105 (@U105radio) February 9, 2019
Some of the visitors said the incident was a bit frightening as they feared the chimpanzees might try to hurt the zoo guests, but ultimately their escape went without incident.
The chimpanzee escape at the Belfast Zoo came a few months after another animal escape attracted international attention. In New Orleans, a male jaguar chewed through a stainless steel barrier and escaped his enclosure during the zoo’s off-hours. The jaguar ended up killing nine other animals. As CNN reported, a member of the zoo staff saw the escaped jaguar and alerted management, who dispatched a team of veterinarians to sedate the animal and return it to its enclosure.
— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) February 10, 2019
After the escape, zoo officials announced the death of the other animals, but said there were no plans to euthanize the jaguar.
“He is a part of our family and he was unfortunately doing what jaguars do,” said Dr. Kyle Burks, vice president and managing director of the zoo.
In Belfast, the chimpanzees that escaped their enclosure later decided to go back in on their own, the zookeeper said.