A gorilla escaped from its enclosure in London Zoo today and was chased for more than 90 minutes by armed keepers and the Metropolitan Police.
Eyewitnesses told MailOnline that they were warned not to look Kumbuka in the eye as it agitates him – minutes before he smashed his way out of his enclosure.
Visitors to the zoo were in lockdown in various sites across the site, including a butterfly enclosure and a cafe as armed keepers scoured the grounds hunting the missing gorilla. The Metropolitan Police joined in the hunt with the Air Support Unit providing air cover and using its heat-seeking camera to find the animal.
One member of the public claimed the animal, thought to be a male silverback, ‘threw himself at the window’ in the enclosure before escaping.
The Met confirmed they got the first call from the Zoo at 5.17pm. The animal was recaptured shortly before 6.30pm.
Oliver Barker, 24, who was at the zoo for a marketing conference, told the Mail Online that the gorilla had seemed ‘agitated’ earlier in the day, and keepers had warned visitors not to stare at him.
He said the animal looked ‘intimidating’ – and a colleague told him the gorilla had charged at the glass shortly before the escape.
He said: ‘He looked like he was in a sort of trance, he definitely wasn’t relaxed at all.
‘He looked very intimidating. The zookeeper came over and said, “don’t aggravate him by staring at him”.
‘She could tell he was very agitated, and lo and behold soon after we were told he had escaped.’
Mr Barker said a colleague went into the enclosure soon after he had been in there, and saw the animal charging.
He said: ‘He said he charged at the glass but the glass didn’t even wobble.
‘Five minutes after that we were told to get into the nearest safe room.’
Eyewitness Brad Evans, who has been allowed to leave the zoo, told BBC Radio London: ‘We were in the zoo for the day, having a cup of coffee in the main restaurant area when they locked us all in and said there was an incident.
‘They gave us free teas and coffees and obviously we were asking what was going on and they told us that a gorilla had got out of its enclosure and that we weren’t allowed out of the park at half-five so we had to wait.
‘As we were waiting we saw the police turning up in numbers with loads of guns.’
Members of the public were ordered to retreat to safety and were in lockdown in sites across the zoo.
The gorilla was recaptured after more than 90 minutes on the run.
Scotland Yard said an incident involving an escaped gorilla at London Zoo has ‘concluded’, amid reports it has been shot with a tranquilliser dart and recaptured.
Hannah O’Donoghue-Hobbs and her friend Charlotte travelled from Manchester for a conference and were were locked in during the incident. They videoed their experience and posted it online.
She said she saw about 30 armed officers.
The 24-year-old told MailOnline: ‘Everyone was all over the zoo, we were told to get into the nearest building.
‘The staff were saying there was a zoo emergency, they didn’t give us any information but I heard through the staff walkie-talkie that it was a gorilla.
‘I didn’t believe it at first, but then we saw more and more police, there were around 30 armed police, I hadn’t seen police like that before.
‘We saw the police coming in with big guns, and there were people from the zoo with guns.’
She said visitors were told to stay away from the windows and weren’t allowed to take photographs.
Former England U21 and Leicester Tigers prop Matt Hampson whose foundation was set up to inspire and support young people seriously injured through sport tweeted: ‘Well that’s the first time that has happened, was doing a talk at London Zoo this evening but evacuated because of an escaped Gorilla!’
A spokeswoman from ZSL London Zoo simply told MailOnline: ‘We managed an incident on site’.
She declined to confirm or deny that the animal had smashed through its glass enclosure, or that it was silverback gorilla Kumbuka who had escaped.
According to the zoo’s website there are at least seven gorillas living in its Gorilla Kingdom.
Among them is Kumbuka, a western lowland silverback, who arrived at ZSL London Zoo in early 2013 from Paignton Zoo in Devon.
Others include Zaire, who came to London Zoo in 1984 after being born in Jersey Zoo, Mjukuu and her daughter Alika, ‘teenager’ Effie, and Gernot, the latest addition who was born in November last year to Effie and Kumbuka.
When seven-foot-tall Kumbuka arrived at the zoo, in the hope he could boost the numbers of the critically endangered species in the European breeding programme, keeper Daniel Simmonds said: ‘We’ve been slowly introducing him to our three females, and Mjukuu and Effie are already quite smitten with their handsome new roommate.
‘He is proving to have quite a playful side to him; he loves to snap the branches on the smaller trees on their island and standing in the spray of the hosepipe when we clean his dens.’
In May a gorilla was shot dead by keepers after it grabbed a four-year-old boy who fell into a moat at a US zoo.
Harambe, a 17-year-old, 400-pound-plus male western lowland, was killed after he dragged the youngster around for 10 minutes after he fell 12 feet into the exhibit at Cincinnati Zoo.
Zoo officials made the decision because they felt the boy was in a “life-threatening situation”.
The lowland gorilla is an endangered species.