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Chimpanzees on the loose cause chaos at Sapporo zoo

In this file photo, Gacha, one of the chimpanzees that escaped from its enclosure, is seen at Sapporo Maruyama Zoo, in Sapporo, Hokkaido, on May 12, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Sapporo Maruyama Zoo)

SAPPORO -- Two chimpanzees that had escaped from their enclosure forced Sapporo Maruyama Zoo to temporarily close on the afternoon of May 28.

    Female chimpanzee Gacha, 52, and male chimpanzee Akki, 9, escaped from their enclosure into a walkway area for workers through a door which a zookeeper forgot to lock, according to the facility.

    As the two chimpanzees also broke a window and could have entered the area for visitors, officials decided to have guests take shelter inside buildings for their safety and locked down the zoo before 3 p.m.

    An employee guided the two chimpanzees back to their enclosure using apples and locked them up about 25 minutes after they went on the loose.

    The zoo said that 3,522 people visited the facility on the day, and that no one was injured. Entrance fees were refunded to visitors who were affected by the chimp getaway.

    Hisako Nishimura, a 67-year-old housewife from the Hokkaido town of Betsukai who had visited the zoo with her two grandchildren, said that staff members explained that the zoo would be temporarily closed because the chimpanzees had got agitated. She commented, "I was surprised when I saw the employees running."

    The zoo's director Osamu Kato said, "We will strengthen safety measures so an incident like this does not happen again."

    (Japanese original by Shuntaro Sawa, Hokkaido District Office)

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