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Loose gorilla contained at Buffalo Zoo

Photo from Buffalo Zoo Website

Koga, a 24-year-old, 400 lb., male silverback gorilla, was loose for about 45 minutes at the Buffalo Zoo late this morning. 

The Zoo says a door to Koga's holding cage was mistakenly left unsecured, allowing the giant silverback to get into the zookeeper's aisle, which is unfamiliar territory.   Koga became rattled and bit a zookeeper on the hand.   Zoo officials were alerted and a red alert was sounded around 11 a.m . 

"That put into action our drill team, which is several components. There's a capture and containment team, which is the keepers to secure the areas, our veterinarian, our mobilization team is immediately called, and we call the SWAT team," explained Zoo President Dr. Donna Fernandes.

Around 100 Zoo visitors were hustled into secure areas of the Parkside Avenue facility.  The Buffalo Police SWAT team was dispatched to the scene as a last resort, but were not needed. 

The Zoo's veterinarian shot Koga with a tranquilizer dart, putting him to sleep in about  30 minutes.  The gorilla was then placed in containment.

"There was never any danger to the public because we have, with any dangerous animal, double containment. So, they have their holding cages, which are generally locked, and then the keeper area, which is also locked," said Fernandes.

The zookeeper who was bitten by the gorilla was treated at the zoo and taken to a hospital for further evaluation.  The wounds to her hand and calf are said to be superficial.  For safety purposes, the keeper had locked herself in one of the holding cages with Sidney, a 14-year-old gorilla, and her one-and-a-half-year-old baby, Amari, both of whom know the keeper well.

Visitor Brian Knoll was at the Zoo with his 2-year-old son. They were in the petting zoo area when officials ordered everyone in a nearby barn. 

"For that minute of panic, I had no idea what had escaped [or] where it was in relation to me. It just seemed very, very dangerous," Knoll said. 

Knoll is an employee of Western New York Public Broadcasting Association, which owns WBFO and AM 970.

The Zoo reopened to the public at 1:00 p.m. Koga was taken off exhibit for the remainder of the day.

You can click the above audio to hear an interview with Knoll and WBFO & AM 970 News Director Jim Ranney.