Colombian Police Shoot to Death Escaped Chimpanzees

BOGOTA (AFP-Jiji) — Two chimpanzees that escaped from a zoo in Colombia were shot dead on July 24, police said.

The immensely powerful primates escaped on the night of July 23 from the Ukumari Biopark in the western city of Pereira, prompting a warning to residents to stay indoors.

Several hours into the escape, police said they found the male chimp Pancho about 2.5 kilometers from the zoo, alone.

He was shot after he appeared to lunge for a zookeeper among the rescue team, police official Alexandra Diaz told local outlet Blu Radio.

“There was an imminent need to act to safeguard the life of the park official,” said Diaz, who added that an order had been issued to shoot in case of an attack, rather than using tranquilizer darts.

Chita, a female who had escaped with Pancho, was killed near the park, said Diaz, without providing further details.

Army Lt. Carlos Salas told AFP the animals were killed “despite the efforts made by the biopark to use tranquilizer darts to subdue them.”

The park in a statement lamented the loss of two animals that “stole the heart of all visitors.”

The chimps escaped due to human error, zoo manager Sandra Correa said at a news conference.

Pancho had previously escaped from captivity in 2007, causing havoc at the Pereira airport and grounding air traffic for several hours.

He had arrived at the zoo that year after being donated by a circus, after a law came into effect banning working with chimps in such contexts.

“He was very intelligent, he knew how to open locks, doors,” Raul Gasca, one of the circus owners, recalled in an interview with Blu Radio.

Gasca said that Pancho was born in a zoo in Cuba and was 22 or 23 years old. Apes of this species typically live for around 50 years.

“A male chimpanzee when it bristles and stands tall is very powerful,” he told Blu Radio.