Como Zoo: 3 gorillas escaped from indoor habitat

3 gorillas escaped from Como Zoo indoor habitat, but never posed threat

Posted: Updated:
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Three gorillas escaped from their exhibit at the Como Zoo in St. Paul, Minn. late Thursday morning, forcing a lockdown that lasted just under an hour. The zoo stressed that the gorillas were always behind a barrier and there was never any threat to the public.

According to Como Zoo, a radio call was made at 9:50 a.m. Thursday that the “bachelor group” of 3 gorillas had escaped their indoor enclosure. Senior zookeeper Allison Jungheim said the 3 gorillas -- Virgil, Jabir and Sampson -- left their habitat area through an unlocked door and entered a secure back hallway only used by zookeepers.

Gorilla finds the goodies

Jabir and Sampson quickly returned to their pen, but Virgil found the room where zookeepers store all the treats.

“He found the enrichment closet and he was playing with the boomer balls and throwing things around,” Jungheim said.

The Como Zoo regularly practices its emergency response to escape scenarios such as this one. Thursday’s incident happened just as the zoo was set to open at 10 a.m.

“I told the lady, ‘You know what, it must a tiger loose,’ and she started laughing and said, I don’t think we have that kind of trouble,” said Yelian Akpovo of Minnetonka, Minn.

Within 50 minutes, it was all over. At 10:10 a.m., Sampson and Jabir were secured in their habitat. Virgil wandered back into the exhibit by 10:40 a.m.

“The gorillas were always in a secure, gorilla-poof location,” Como Zoo spokesman Matt Reinartz said. “They just happened to be in an area they shouldn’t have been in. But at no time was anyone in danger.”

Not the first time

In May of 1994, a 400-pound  gorilla named Casey escaped its exhibit at the Como Zoo by climbing over a 15-foot concrete wall and a 4-foot fence. In that case, the gorilla was on the loose for about 45 minutes.

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