Four endangered chimpanzees have been shot dead after escaping their enclosure at Furuvik Zoo in Sweden last Wednesday (December 14).
Three others who escaped with them were recaptured. However, one was injured in the process and placed under veterinary care for the foreseeable future. She is reported to have sustained arm and eye injuries.
The zoo claims that shooters were brought in after consultation with on-site vets. Talks revealed that there were not enough tranquilizer reserves to bring the animals back alive. “That is why we called for the marksmen,” Anna Troselius, information manager for Furuvik Zoo told TV channel TV4.
It is thought that around seven hunters were employed to find and kill the escaped chimpanzees.
Local residents were warned to stay indoors at the time of the event. Zoo communications described the missing primates as “strong and high risk.”
Shoot to kill
The risk to human life was given as the reason for choosing to shoot, not capture, the missing chimpanzees. Joining local hunters in the kill mission were police officers and drones.
“When they got out of the chimpanzee house, people’s lives were in danger both in the park and the public outside the park. Then it becomes a critical situation and there are no other options than shoot to kill,” Sandra Wilke, CEO of Furuvik Zoo, told Swedish news organization TT.
Experts have declared the shoot-to-kill order an overreaction. As a result, zoologists from the University of Lund suspended their cooperation with the zoo and halted their chimpanzee research.
Was this an avoidable tragedy?
Located 156 kilometers north of Stockholm, Furuvik Zoo has a history of concerning security. It has previously come under fire for its seemingly lax chimpanzee enclosure measures.
In 2018, an animal keeper had one of his fingers bitten off by a primate after losing his balance and reaching for one of the bars that kept him separated from the animals. Following the incident, a Swedish Work Environment Authority investigation was launched and found significant security concerns surrounding the chimpanzee enclosure.
The zoo claims to have no idea how the seven chimpanzees recently escaped their house and is said to be thoroughly investigating what it refers to as a “great tragedy and a huge failure.”