Zoo officials: bamboo trimming compromised ape enclosure

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Sedgwick County Zoo has completed its investigation into the October orangutan escape.

The 11-year-old orangutan, named Tao, made her way out of her enclosure through a small hole and onto a public pathway on October 25. The zoo went on lock down for a short time as zookeepers put Tao back in her exhibit.

Zoo officials released their findings into the escape investigation on Wednesday. They said while employees were cutting bamboo around the orangutan habitat, the employees accidentally cut some of the enclosure’s wiring causing some of it to unravel.

“When Tao, the orangutan, went out into the exhibit that she was able to find some of that and being new to the exhibit she was exploring every little spot and found a place that she was able to unravel,” said Sedgwick County Zoo Deputy Director Ryan Gulker. “The mesh sort of flexes, so she was able to squeeze out through a hole.”

Since the escape, Gulker said he and his staff have implemented several new safety measures.

“We developed a process by which when anyone is cutting bamboo or any other plant material or on the edge of containment, we are going to be providing an extra screening between the containment and where the plants need to be cut, so that we don’t have that kind of damage in the future,” Gulker said.

Gulker said zookeepers are also making plans to do more thorough inspections of animal exhibits.

“We started talking to our staff about ways to perform safety audits that delve deeper into some of the containment,” he said.

The zoo reported it’s findings to the USDA and to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Gulker said both of the organizations are satisfied with the report.

The outdoor orangutan exhibit has been reopened to the public.