[monkeywire] Knife-wielding gorilla shocks zoo visitors

ugarte at rickblaine.com ugarte at rickblaine.com
Wed Jun 17 16:26:46 EDT 2009

Knife-wielding gorilla shocks zoo visitors
(photos in online version)

Calgary officials investigating incident that ended without injuries
By Colette Derworiz, Calgary Herald; Canwest News ServiceJune 17, 2009

Onlookers at the Calgary Zoo were shocked Tuesday when a Western 
Lowland gorilla picked up a knife and pointed it at a fellow gorilla, 
then placed it on a chair for the keepers to remove.

None of the gorillas was hurt in the incident, but it startled the 20 
or so visitors -- including children --who watched the scene unfold 
around 10:30 a. m. local time in the outdoor gorilla exhibit.

"He grabbed the knife exactly in the correct position and he smelled 
it and looked at it," said Calgarian Joe Scheffler, who was at the zoo 
with his wife, Heike. "A few seconds later, another gorilla came and 
he was very interested.

"He tried to get the knife, but the gorilla with the knife lifted the 
knife for his buddy....It seems to me that the gorilla with the knife 
was a little bit angry, and he lifted his hand with the knife.

"It was just a scene from a crime," added Scheffler, whose wife 
snapped photos of the morning incident.

Visitors were visibly shaken by the scene, and wondered aloud where 
the gorilla would get a knife.

Suddenly, as though it sensed danger, Scheffler said the second 
gorilla stepped away, and the knife-wielding gorilla walked a short 
distance and placed it on an old chair sitting in the exhibit.

Laurie Herron, manager of communications for the Calgary Zoo, said the 
knife was accidentally left by one of the gorilla keepers who was 
cleaning out the exhibit earlier Tuesday morning.

"He dropped it," she explained. "One of the other keepers or a 
volunteer came and told him that the gorillas had a knife and he was 
like, 'Oh, crap.'

"It was a small utility knife; it wasn't a huge knife."

Herron said the keeper herded the gorillas into the back of the 
enclosure and removed the knife before any of the gorillas got hurt.

"He, of course, feels terrible that he dropped it," she said, noting 
the keeper was cutting hoses and ropes in the enclosure with the 
knife. "They are usually really careful because, when they have tools 
and things in there, I know they generally do a count of anything they 
have taken in."

All the gorillas were checked and none of them had any cuts or scrapes 
from the knife, she said.

Herron said the zoo will review the incident with the gorilla keepers 
to see whether they need to change any procedures for entering the 

"They do try to be very, very careful," she said. "Obviously, he just 
didn't notice that he dropped it."

The incident, however, drew criticism from Zoocheck, a Torontobased 
zoo watchdog group.

"It does not surprise me," spokeswoman Julie Woodyer said late 
Tuesday. "I bet you it happens far more often than people actually 
see, and that there are all kinds of incidents that go on there. There 
have been all kinds of incidents as a result of bad husbandry."

Earlier this year, a wild goat died after becoming entangled in a play 
toy. Zoo officials also admitted this spring that the death of 41 
cownose rays was the result of human error.

"Maybe it's lack of staff, maybe it's lack of training, I don't know, 
but, in my mind, it comes down to incompetency," said Woodyer, 
reiterating calls for the zoo to go through a thorough audit by an 
independent third party.

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

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