A male chimpanzee was shot dead after escaping from its enclosure at the Attica Zoological Park, which is located just outside of Athens, on Saturday.
The killing of the animal, as well as the details surrounding its escape from the zoo, which is located in the Athens suburb of Spata, have come under scrutiny since the chimpanzee’s death.
Social media users and animal rights activists have raised questions regarding the quality of care for the animals held at the zoo, which is privately owned and has been scrutinized regarding the welfare of its animals in the past.
According to the zoo, the chimpanzee, which was 27 years old and stood at 1.80 m (5’10) before its death, was able to escape its cage, get over an electric fence, and then make its way to the zoo’s parking lot.
The captive animal’s escape followed an altercation with the other chimpanzees held at the zoo near Athens.
Athens zoo under fire for killing of chimpanzee
Coming under criticism for its decision to shoot the animal, the Attica Zoo released a statement, saying:
The police were informed, the visitors were isolated and the chimpanzee, with the coordinated actions by the security staff in the presence of the veterinarians, was taken to an isolated area on the security perimeter of the Park, where it was deemed necessary to neutralize it 20 minutes later.
Many people questioned why the animal was killed rather than simply sedated, but the zoo stated that the extremely high levels of adrenaline in the chimpanzee’s system meant that sedating it was not possible, as it could take around twenty minutes for the drugs to kick in.
Jean-Jacques Lesueur, the owner of the zoo, claimed that there was no other possible solution to handling the escape of the animal while speaking to the Greek television network Alpha on Saturday.
“Chimpanzees belong to the red and highest risk category, so according to the safety protocols and the risk assessment by the present and competent veterinarians, who observe the behavior of the animal, their neutralization is considered,” Lesueur stated.
“I understand people’s concerns. What we want to emphasize now, as well as in our statement, is that an animal in such a state of anxiety, with high adrenaline, can’t be sedated,” he continued.
“We isolated the animal and monitored it for 15 minutes, we tried to put it back in the zoo, it wouldn’t go back, it was very nervous. There was no way of leading it to a safe place. We weren’t able to capture it,”Lesueur said. “It was outside of the zoo’s grounds.”
Despite this statement, many social media users and activists were outraged at the killing and highlighted that two jaguars were killed at the same zoo in 2018 after escaping their cages.
Many organizations, including the Panhellenic Animal Welfare and Environmental Federation, have organized protests outside of the zoo.
An investigation will be conducted into both how the chimpanzee escaped and whether or not its killing was justified.