A situation with an escaped 400-pound male gorilla at the zoo in Buffalo, New York, could have been a lot worse, according to zoo officials. The gorilla, Koga, saw his opportunity with an unlocked cage, but while on the loose ended up biting his zookeeper.
Koga escaped Monday, according to a Reuters report, and bit the zookeeper who had cared for him since he came to reside at the zoo in 2007. Buffalo Zoo President Donna Fernandez said Koga was probably surprised to come face-to-face with the zookeeper upon his escape and bit her in the hand and calf. The unnamed zookeeper quickly took refuge in another gorilla cage — one with a non-violent female and baby gorilla.
The zookeeper was treated for the wounds on the scene and eventually taken to the hospital for further evaluation.
Watch this local news report:
From there the zoo quickly went into a procedural lockdown while the SWAT team was called in and a veterinarian eventually shot the animal with a tranquilizer dart. Two employees from the local news station just happened to be at the zoo with their families that day and were able to give personal accounts. WIVB reports:
News 4 photographer Josh Roy recalled, “We’re sitting there looking at the ducks and I notice a worker just sprinting.”
Roy and his two kids and his sister, News Four producer Alison Russo, and her baby were actually headed to the gorilla house next.
All of a sudden, Roy said, “The guy behind me started yelling, ‘We need to get out of here! Go to the front or go the to RainForest.’”
“Oh, I think they did great, they did everything they needed to do. Didn’t scare anyone,” Roy [said referring to how the zoo handled the situation].
It was Russo’s son’s first trip to the zoo. She joked, “I’m sure his Dad’s going to exaggerate it and say he fought the gorilla off!”
Watch the report with the News 4 employees’ account:
“In this emergency situation, we experienced the best possible outcome thanks to the training and professionalism of the Buffalo Zoo staff, as well as members of the Buffalo Police Department, especially the SWAT team,” said Fernandes in a release.
Reports state that Koga’s bites were thought to be “playful,” not violent.
Mark Maraschiello of the Buffalo Police told WIVB News 4 in a separate article that the situation was taken seriously, but the visitors of the zoo were not in a truly dangerous situation as the gorilla, even though escaped from his cage, was still contained in a holding area:
“This was inside the holding area, well-contained, behind doors, very easy to contain this to a small area. This is the type of situation we like, if we have to have it.”
Still, Reuters reports Maraschiello, leader of the SWAT team, saying it was the “scariest thing I’ve done in my career.”
Visitors at the zoo were ushered to secure locations for 45 minutes until the ordeal was resolved.