Three chimpanzees at Sweden’s Furuvik Zoo were shot and killed after escaping their enclosure. A fourth primate was injured in the incident, the zoo said on Thursday. Local media reported that police started an animal welfare crime investigation.
The decision to shoot the animals has been met with criticism on social media. Many people have expressed outrage at the zoo’s actions, arguing that there must have been a better way to handle the situation. Some have suggested that the zoo should have called in a specialist team to tranquillize and capture the animals rather than resorting to lethal force.
“I get so pissed off. It is so unprofessional and incredibly incompetently done,” Ing-Marie Persson, who worked very closely with the chimpanzees for 30 years, told news media Afton Bladet.
She said that the animals were her best friends and part of her family, and their deaths have broken her heart: “It should not have become necessary to shoot the escaped monkeys. It is disgusting. So damn poorly done.”
“First and foremost, stun them, get someone there who can calmly stun the animals. The last thing you should do is bring a lot of people and the police there. They get nervous and stressed,” Persson said. “You have to have competent people. Why didn’t they call us? We live only a few kilometers away.”
The zoo has defended its decision, stating that tranquillizing the chimpanzees was not an alternative. “In order to fire an anaesthetic dart, you need to be very close to the animal,” the zoo said in a statement. “In addition, you have to wait up to 10 minutes for the tranquillizer to take effect.”
“Chimpanzees can be thought to be peaceful, but they are extremely dangerous. They are fast, very strong and generally fearless. It can quickly escalate to a life-threatening situation,” the zoo said.
Five of the zoo’s seven chimpanzees managed to escape from their enclosure on Wednesday shortly after noon and were roaming freely around the zoo before three of them were shot and killed. It is not yet known how the chimpanzees escaped from their enclosure. The zoo is currently investigating the incident.
The police are also investigating the incident as a violation of the Swedish Animal Welfare Act. According to news media Gefle Dagblad, the zoo may have committed a crime by not having sufficiently escape-proof animal enclosures.
The chimps’ escape comes after several other high-profile animal escapes in Sweden. In October, a king cobra slipped out of Stockholm’s open-air museum and zoo Skansen and was missing for about a week before he returned on his own. In November, two great grey owls broke free from the bird enclosure at the same zoo but have since flown back.