The Dallas Zoo Wants to Reassure You: This Gorilla Escape Wasn't Like the Last One

Maybe you heard: On Saturday, Tufani, a 19-year-old female gorilla at the Dallas Zoo, got out of her holding area at the 2-acre Jake L. Hamon Gorilla Conservation Research Center. It was nothing as dramatic as the Jabari rampage in '04, which prompted PETA to demand the U.S. Department of Agriculture revoke the Dallas Zoo's animal exhibitor license. The zoo was closed due to snow, and the only thing Tufani was shot with was some sedative to get her off the roof of her cage. Nonetheless, zoo officials want to reassure the public: All's well. Hence the statement sent by spokesperson Susan Eckert moments ago, which begins, "In response to public interest ..."

The whole statement's after the jump, but, in short: Someone done left the enclosure door open, simple as that. "Human error." Zoo officials insist it wasn't that big a deal: "Tufani never left the holding building and never had access to the outdoor habitat or public areas. No one was injured and the public was never at risk." Nonetheless, at 1 p.m. media members have been invited to the zoo to talk to Gregg Hudson, executive director of the Dallas Zoo, and tour the gorilla holding building (sans cameras, shame). Field trip?

Dallas Zoo Completes Successful Emergency Response


DALLAS (Feb. 16, 2010) - The Dallas Zoo has determined that Tufani, a 19-year-old female gorilla, was able to leave her off-exhibit holding area within the Jake L. Hamon Gorilla Conservation Research Center on Saturday, Feb. 13 due to human error. Tufani never left the holding building and never had access to the outdoor habitat or public areas. No one was injured and the public was never at risk.

"Overall, it was a very successful resolution to this issue," said Gregg Hudson, executive director of the Dallas Zoo. "The enhanced communication and ongoing safety drills between the Dallas Zoo staff and Dallas Police Department resulted in a swift and positive outcome."

A zookeeper did not follow established safety protocols and procedures to verify that the area was unoccupied before preparing to clean the facility. The door to the enclosure was opened and the zookeeper stepped back to gather equipment. Tufani immediately left the enclosure and entered a restricted and secure holding area accessible only to zookeepers managing the facility.

"We have very specific safety procedures when working with any of our animals," Hudson said. "It is very unfortunate that those steps were not followed. However, once the security breach was realized, the gorilla keepers and the Zoo's Emergency Response Team immediately followed safety protocols and we were able to safely contain the sedated gorilla and return her to a secure recovery area in the building."

Immediately moving to safe zones, zookeepers called for assistance from the Emergency Response Team at 10:35 a.m. and 9-1-1 was called moments later. Veterinarians successfully administered a sedative at 11:44 a.m., and Tufani was fully sedated and placed in her recovery area by 12:11 p.m. She is back on exhibit in the Wilds of Africa. The zookeeper has been suspended pending final actions and recommendations by the Zoo's Major Incident Review Committee.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky