Chimpanzee escapes enclosure at Honolulu Zoo

Credit: Jeremy Hanson


On this Mother’s Day, families visiting the Honolulu Zoo were shocked and some frightened to see a chimpanzee climb out of its exhibit.

Photos taken by a witness show the chimp on top of the wall.

A city spokesman said the chimpanzee created a finger-hold in the exhibit wall and at around noon, scaled it to the top.

The animal then jumped off the wall into the chimp “holding” area. Officials said it did not go into a public space.

Witnesses tell KHON2 they were taken inside the bird exhibit next door until they received the all clear.

The city said the chimp was contained in the holding area and placed back in his pen within 10 minutes after climbing out.

There are eight chimps total and the rest of them were also put in their holding pens while zoo staff figures out how the chimp escaped.

“He was on the back wall of the exhibit outside of the security area, he was running around kind of scared,” said Jeremy Hanson who was at the zoo with his family.

That’s when Hanson took photos of the chimp who got out.

“If you ever watch the nature channel when they are attacking each other that’s kind of what it was, he was bearing his teeth screaming at them so it was a different thing,” said Hanson.

Other witnesses tell us sirens went off and everyone in the zoo was evacuated.

“One of the zoo keepers came out threw his arms up and said everyone go to the entrance,” said David Susak.

“I grabbed my kids and when straight out. First thing, where my kids. We are getting out here. Dropped the food just left,” said Ben Espeleta.

The people closest to the chimpanzee exhibit were taken to the bird aviary enclosure where they waited until everything was cleared.

About 20 people were in the bird aviary with Lindsay Ayles of Australia.

“The zoo staff just herded us into this bird cage then we thought oh right that was the chimpanzee that escaped,” said Ayles.

This isn’t the first time a chimpanzee escaped its enclosure. Back in 2014, one of them named Puiwa climbed out using a chip in the wall.

Honolulu Zoo

Zoo officials said after that escape, they were going to make safety modifications.

Now that another chimp as breached the exhibit walls, we asked the City for more details.

A spokesman said zoo officials are still investigating what happened and will get back to us later.

In the meantime, zoo visitors say this incident will not deter them from coming back.

“I think the zoo handled it professionally and they ushered everybody in, they stayed professional about it,” said Hanson who was also one of the people held in the bird aviary for about ten minutes, “I will come back I still have my annual pass best way to go,”

The city is asking for just under $3-million to fix up deteriorating exhibits. KHON2 is checking to see if the chimpanzee exhibit is one them.

The zoo did reopen less than an hour after the escape, but the chimpanzee exhibit has been closed until further notice.


Sign at Honolulu Zoo

On June 25, 2014, 15-year-old Puiwa escaped his enclosure “due to damage sustained to the chimpanzee exhibit wall.”

Officials said a chip, about the size of a quarter, was big enough for the chimpanzee to climb up the wall.

Puiwa was just on the edge of an area where visitors were walking. A visitor spotted the chimpanzee and alerted zoo staff.

In the 2014 case, the zoo was evacuated and the chimpanzee was subdued using a tranquilizer dart.

The enclosure was shut down for approximately four weeks to replacing the current cement wall with a more weather-proof material at a cost of between $50,000-$100,000

In February 2008, one of three tigers walked out of an enclosure after a zookeeper forgot to secure the gates after cleaning the area.

In March 2012, three exotic birds escaped after vandals cut holes in their cages.

And in August 2012, a 35-pound black-crested gibbon escaped after jumping from a wooden plank to a containment wall.

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