Twenty-seven conservation experts from the Great Ape Health Consortium urged a letter to Nature Tuesday that all great ape tourism be suspended and field research be reduced in an effort to protect already vulnerable species from contracting COVID-19.
"The Covid-19 pandemic is a critical situation for humans, our health and our economies," lead letter writer Thomas Gillespie of Emory University told The Guardian. "It's also a potentially dire situation for great apes. There is a lot at stake for those in danger of extinction."
Since no gorilla, orangutan or chimpanzee has yet caught COVID-19, it is impossible to know exactly how it would impact our closest genetic relatives, but human respiratory illnesses as mild as the common cold have proved fatal to gorillas, The Associated Press reported.
Some parks are already taking measures to protect the animals. Virunga National Park in the Congo, which is home to a third of the world's mountain gorillas, is closing to human visitors until June 1 to prevent transmission, and Rwanda is also closing three parks home to gorillas and chimpanzees to tourists and researchers.
In Malaysian Borneo, meanwhile, the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre is also closing to protect orangutans.
"This disease could be fatal for the already critically endangered orangutan: it is a risk that we cannot afford to take," Susan Sheward of Orangutan Appeal UK explained to The Guardian.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature issued guidelines in response to the coronavirus March 15 urging interactions between humans and apes to be reduced to the minimum possible. It advised that the normal seven meter (approximately 23 foot) distance between apes and humans be expanded to 10 meters (approximately 33 feet) and that no one who is ill or has been in contact with someone who was ill within the past 14 days be allowed to interact with apes.
However, Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu explained how, in the case of COVID-19, that might not be effective.
"We know that gorillas are very sensitive to human diseases," she told The Associated Press. "If anyone has a cold or a flu they are not allowed to go and see the gorillas. With coronavirus having such a long time of no symptoms in some cases, it means that we could actually put those gorillas at risk."
The one risk with shutting parks to visitors is that it might encourage the presence of poachers. The Great Ape Health Consortium said that risk assessments would have to be conducted to continue the parks' conservation work while protecting apes from the new illness.
"Such efforts should include ways to offset loss of earnings from tourism, while taking care not to interfere with work to save human lives," they wrote.
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With the coronavirus continuing to spread and self-isolation becoming the norm, it feels more important than ever to embrace the power and beauty of nature. Sure, we can't travel as much these days, but the modern world can still bring the natural world to us.
We've picked some great webcams around the globe to help keep you sane in these trying times. Depending on the time of day or night you're reading this, they should offer you some solace and wonder for the long weeks ahead.
Tembe Elephant Park
One of several great livecams from Explore.org. This one brings you to a very popular watering hole on the Mozambique border.
A rare opportunity to see bald eagles up close and relaxed in Decorah, Iowa.
Gorilla Forest Corridor
You may or may not see any critically endangered Grauer's gorillas, but this is a heck of a peaceful site in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
An urban reef in Miami, Florida that's part habitat, part science experiment and part art project. You never know who might swim by.
Cornell Lab’s Panama Fruit Feeder-cam at Canopy Lodge
Pay attention. All kinds of colorful birds fly by to sample the wares that scientists have left out for them at this conservation site in Panama.
Big Sur Condors
Two webcams from the Ventana Wildlife Society showcasing the amazing California condors in their care. The birds aren't always on camera, but it's worth sticking around to see them.
Big Sur Condor Nest powered by EXPLORE.org
Otters and More at Monterey Bay
A neverending parade of sea otters, birds, harbor seals and other marine mammals will entertain you at this feed, courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Bison Watering Hole at Grasslands National Park
Again, you never know what wildlife you'll witness onscreen, but the beauty of this site in Saskatchewan can take your breath away.
New York University’s Hawk Cam
Oh wow, an urban nest whose residents are mini-celebrities. This includes an active chat feature, so it's one more way to connect with fellow enthusiasts.
Jellyfish at Monterey Bay Aquarium
Who knew jellyfish were so Zen? This livecam is about as relaxing as it can possibly get. Get lost in the gentle motion.
There's more! We found one more essential livestream that we can't embed but it's worth opening a new browser tab to see:
Red Wolf enclosure cam — Check out one of the rarest predators on the planet, courtesy of the conservation breeding program at the Wolf Conservation Center, which also maintains several other great webcams.
Don't find something you like above? You can also try going for a walk to see what wildlife or natural beauties you can find in your neighborhood. After all, self-isolation doesn't mean we have to keep ourselves indoors all day and all night.
While you're at it, bring your phone and share photos of what you see on iNaturalist or other citizen-science platforms — that's one more way to stay connected with your community and avoid feelings of isolation. And you can help collect important scientific information along the way.
No matter what you do, please just stay safe. The world will still need you when all of this is over.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
The outlook for eastern Africa's mountain gorillas is growing brighter, as a recent census released on Dec. 16 shows that the subspecies' numbers have risen since 2011. Scientists believe there are now at least 1,063 mountain gorillas living in the wild.
Tara Stoinski, the CEO and chief scientific officer of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, said the results of the latest census were "incredible, given what's happening to other wildlife populations, and given the high level of threats that they face."
"It's a real testament to the level of conservation action that's happening for these populations," Stoinski told Mongabay.
A team participates in a training for the census. Winnie Eckardt / Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund / Mongabay
In the 1980s, the known population of mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) in the Virunga Mountains had dwindled to just 240 individuals, as lost habitat, hunting, disease and other threats had exacted a costly toll. By late 2018, though, more than three decades of "extreme conservation" involving the day-to-day protection of gorilla families appeared to be having an impact: A 2016 survey of the gorillas living in the Virungas revealed an increase to 604 animals.
But a census of the other mountain gorilla population, found further north in the Bwindi-Sarambwe ecosystem, hadn't taken place since 2011, when researchers figured it held 400 gorillas.
A silverback mountain gorilla in Uganda. Skyler Bishop / Gorilla Doctors
The 2018 census of the Bwindi-Sarambwe population, which straddles the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, found evidence of at least 459 individuals. The 2011 census covered only Uganda's gorillas. In 2018, however, improved local security allowed teams to include DRC's Sarambwe Nature Reserve as well.
Mountain gorillas live in three different countries — Uganda, DRC and Rwanda. And the Virunga and Bwindi-Sarambwe populations aren't connected to each other: Though just 50 kilometers (31 miles) separates the edges of the two ranges, the landscape between them no longer has forest that can support gorillas. The researchers and trackers involved in the census say that the disconnected populations and their transboundary ranges have made cooperation vital to both the protection of the animals and to monitoring efforts.
The recent census was "a great example of collaboration between governments, conservation organizations like the Fossey Fund and local communities," Felix Ndagijimana, who directs the Fossey Fund's Rwanda programs and the Karisoke Research Center, said in a statement.
In addition to the DRC and Uganda governmental wildlife agencies, the effort, under the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration, included support and funding from more than a dozen conservation NGOs and institutions as well as local communities.
To carry out the census, survey teams walked "reconnaissance" trails, scouring the ground for fecal samples in a "two-sweep" method — one between March and May 2018, and then again between October and December 2018.
Veterinarian Fred Nizeyimana performs an emergency snare removal from adult female mountain gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. Gorilla Doctors
Tromping through the gorilla's habitat is not easy work, Stoinksi said. "It's called the Bwindi impenetrable forest for a reason."
"The census work is a tough job — physically demanding, with 12 hours each day of walking through the forest, crossing big ravines and climbing mountains," Prosper Kaberabose, a Fossey Fund tracker, said in a statement. But by participating in the training before the survey, as well as the census itself, members of the team picked up valuable and marketable skills, Kaberabose said.
The fecal samples — about 2,000 of them — were then sent to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California, Davis. Analyses conducted there identified 459 individual gorillas.
"Given ongoing risks to mountain gorillas such as habitat encroachment, potential disease transmission, poaching and civil unrest, this increase should serve as both a celebration and a clarion call to all government, NGO and institutional partners to continue to collaborate in our work to ensure the survival of mountain gorillas," Kirsten Gilardi, executive director of the Gorilla Doctors and a veterinarian at UC Davis, said in a statement.
An infant mountain gorilla standing on its mother's back in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. Gorilla Doctors / Mongabay
The teams also noted signs of other animals, including chimpanzees and elephants. Though these mammal populations weren't the focus of the study, they appear to be holding steady, in contrast to declines elsewhere.
It may be that the conservation efforts to protect gorillas are also helping to keep other species safe, Stoinski said.
But despite the success of the "extreme conservation" that's gone into bringing mountain gorillas back from the edge of extinction, Stoinski echoed Gilardi's call for continued action. Mountain gorillas are still "conservation-dependent," she said.
"The really exciting news is that they're increasing," Stoinski said. "The other side of that is they still face a lot of challenges."
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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First, the good news. Collaborative conservation efforts have brought "renewed hope" for mountain gorillas and two large whale species, according to today's update from the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
The mountain gorilla subspecies moved from "critically endangered" to "endangered" due to anti-poaching patrols and veterinary interventions. In 2008, their population dropped to as low as 680 individuals––but the new estimates reveal that the number of mountain gorillas has increased to more than 1,000 individuals—the highest figure ever recorded for the eastern gorilla subspecies, the IUCN said.
Against All Odds, Mountain Gorilla Numbers Are on the Rise https://t.co/PW1sCLxfzE @wwf_uk @JaneGoodallInst— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1530610221.0
Meanwhile, the fin whale's status moved from "endangered" to "vulnerable" and the western subpopulation of the gray whale moved from "critically endangered" to "endangered."
"These whales are recovering largely thanks to bans on commercial hunting, international agreements and various protection measures," Randall Reeves of the IUCN cetacean specialist group said in a press release. "Conservation efforts must continue until the populations are no longer threatened."
Now, the bad news. The Red List update shows that other flora and fauna are under threat due to overexploitation, including the globally important vene timber tree (now "endangered"), the aquilaria agarwood that's prized for its fragrant wood (13 out of 20 species are threatened with extinction), the giant bolson tortoise of North America (now "critically endangered"), and the pungent and endangered "corpse flower" that is now in decline due to logging and destruction of the plant's habitat from palm oil plantations.
Not only that, the assessment also shows that 13 percent of the world's grouper species and 9 percent of Lake Malawi fish are now threatened with extinction.
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™: November 2018 Update www.youtube.com
"At least two billion people depend directly on inland freshwater fisheries such as Lake Malawi for their survival," William Darwall, head of IUCN's Freshwater Species Unit, explained in the press release. "Almost 80 percent of catch from freshwater fisheries comes from food-deficit countries—where the general population does not have sufficient food to meet recommended daily calorie intake—yet freshwater resources are not prioritized on national or international agendas. Target 6 of the UN Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, focused on avoidance of overfishing, will therefore be missed. This omission puts local livelihoods at risk and increases the risk of food insecurity across the world."
The Red List now includes 96,951 species of which 26,840 are threatened with extinction. The report was released as governments gather for the Convention on Biological Diversity conference this week in Egypt.
"Unfortunately, the latest update also underlines how threats to biodiversity continue to undermine some of society's most important goals, including food security," IUCN Director General Inger Andersen said in the press release. "We urgently need to see effective conservation action strengthened and sustained. The ongoing UN biodiversity summit in Egypt provides a valuable opportunity for decisive action to protect the diversity of life on our planet."
Wake up world. https://t.co/mSwLvbOw5V— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1541854816.0
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The 4.8-pound female was born last Friday and has not yet been given a name, according to the zoo's press release.
The zoo said that the baby's mother, a 22-year-old named Kumbuka, initially displayed normal maternal behavior toward her baby. However, she was improperly cradling and carrying the little gorilla, similar to how she behaved when she lost two previous offspring at another zoo.
Because Kumbuka is hearing impaired, it is believed that her disability may prevent her from detecting when her youngsters are in distress, the zoo said.
"Faced with a life-threatening situation, the extremely difficult decision was made to remove Kumbuka's baby for short-term assisted rearing by gorilla care staff," the zoo said, adding that the decision was supported by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP).
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
The Gorilla SSP recommended that Kumbuka join the Jacksonville Zoo troop to learn maternal behavior from the other mother gorillas. Zoo keepers will also show Kumbuka how to properly hold and carry her youngster.
The new mom can see and smell her daughter, who is being given around-the-clock care by keepers next door, the zoo said. Keepers will care for the young gorilla for the next four months and allow mom to maintain a close connection, which is essential for a successful reintroduction.
"Welcoming the newest member of our zoo family is always exciting, and this little gorilla's arrival is both special and challenging," said Dan Maloney, JZG Deputy Director of Animal Care and Conservation in the press release. "I'm so proud of the animal care and health teams who are working so hard on behalf of Kumbuka and her baby."
Wild western lowland gorillas can be found in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of Congo, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Their population is estimated in the order of a few hundred thousand. However, despite their abundance and wide geographic range, the gorillas are listed as "critically endangered" because their population has reduced more than 80 percent in roughly six decades due to ongoing poaching, disease, habitat loss and climate change, the IUCN says.
KumbukaJacksonville Zoo and Gardens
"Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy. She was beloved and will be deeply missed," the foundation said in a press release.
Koko was born Hanabi-ko (Japanese for "fireworks child") on July 4, 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo. Animal psychologist Francine "Penny" Patterson began working with Koko at the tender age of one.
She famously learned about 1,000 words in American Sign Language and could understand about 2,000 words of spoken English.
"Koko's capacity for language and empathy has opened the minds and hearts of millions," the Gorilla Foundation noted.
She was featured in multiple documentaries and on the cover of magazines. The Oct. 1978 cover of National Geographic featured a photograph Koko had taken of herself in a mirror.
Koko was also known for her love of cats and had pet kittens, including one named All Ball that Koko cradled on another National Geographic cover. The book Koko's Kitten, written by Patterson, is the true story of Koko receiving a kitten on her twelfth birthday and highlights their affectionate relationship.
In her PSA, Koko urges humanity to protect the environment. She signs: "Man Koko love. Earth Koko love. But Man stupid. Stupid! Koko sorry. Koko cry. Time hurry! Fix Earth! Help Earth! Hurry! Protect Earth. Nature see you. Thank you."
The Gorilla Foundation said at the time that "Koko was very interested in the subject." Koko was given a script drafted by NOE for the video and was allowed to improvise. She had to learn a few new signs, such as "Protect" and "Nature."
"The resulting PSA was edited from a number of separate takes, for brevity and continuity. However, Koko was clear about the main message: Man is harming the Earth and its many animal and plant species and needs to 'hurry' and fix the problem," the foundation said.
"This is the greatest thing that could ever happen," the musician remarked as he watched Koko plucking and strumming a guitar in 2016. "This is the greatest day that I will never forget in my life."
"The foundation will continue to honor Koko's legacy and advance our mission with ongoing projects including conservation efforts in Africa, the great ape sanctuary on Maui, and a sign language application featuring Koko for the benefit of both gorillas and children," the Gorilla Foundation stated.
Numbers of critically endangered mountain gorillas are on the up, following conservation efforts in the transboundary Virunga Massif, one of the two remaining areas where the great ape is still found.
Survey results released Thursday reveal that numbers have increased to 604 from an estimated 480 in 2010, including 41 social groups, along with 14 solitary males in the transboundary area. This brings the global wild population of mountain gorillas to an estimated 1,004 when combined with published figures from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (where the rest of the sub-species is found) and makes it the only great ape in the world that is considered to be increasing in population.
The findings are the result of intensive surveying coordinated by the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration and supported by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP—a coalition program of Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and World Wildlife Fund WWF) along with other partners.
Despite this good news, the survey found that direct threats from wire or rope snares persist. During the surveys, the teams found and destroyed more than 380 snares, which were set for antelope but can also kill or harm gorillas. One of the snares discovered by the teams contained a dead mountain gorilla. There are also new threats looming large on the horizon, including climate change, infrastructure development and the ever-present specter of disease, which has the potential to devastate the remaining populations.
Ongoing conflict and civil unrest in the region also present an ongoing risk, impacting people and wildlife. A number of rangers have been killed in recent weeks in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park.
"This is fabulous news for mountain gorillas and shows what we can do for wildlife when NGOs, governments and their communities work together," said Margaret Kinnaird, wildlife practice leader with WWF. "The mountain gorilla story can be a model for how to restore and maintain our earth's precious biodiversity," she added.
"Since FFI first began working to protect mountain gorillas in the 1970s, we have seen a remarkable transformation in the fortunes of this great ape, which at that time was on the very precipice of extinction," said Alison Mollon, director of operations for Africa at FFI. "This turnaround is thanks to the extraordinary efforts of all those who have persisted through immense challenges—sometimes even risking their own lives—to protect these great apes."
The census involved twelve teams—comprising people from more than 10 institutions—which covered more than 2,000 kilometers (approximately 1,243 miles) of difficult, forested terrain systematically searching the mountain gorilla habitat for signs of the animals, recording nest sites and collecting faeces samples for genetic analysis. The teams also looked for evidence of threats to gorillas and other wildlife.
Reacting to the news, FFI vice president and WWF-UK ambassador Sir David Attenborough said: "When I first visited the mountain gorillas in 1979, the situation was dire; the number of these remarkable animals was dreadfully small. It is incredibly heartening therefore to see how the efforts of so many different groups—communities, governments, NGOs—have paid off. The threats to mountain gorillas haven't disappeared entirely, of course, so now the challenge must be to ensure that these achievements are sustained long into the future."
The survey results underscore the need for continued attention and action by government agencies, protected area staff, tourism operators, tourists and communities alike, to ward off these threats and keep mountain gorillas safe in the long term.
Top 25 Most Endangered Primates: the Most Current List https://t.co/IPIr8ICAJa @ImageOfWildlife @JaneGoodallInst— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1512079511.0
Munganga Nzonga Jacques, 26, died Oct. 4 in an area in the Tshivanga region of the park, an area previously believed to be safe for the gorillas, showing the dangers conservationists face in unstable regions, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said.
Jacques is the second ranger to be killed in the park in the last six months. Rebel groups shot and killed park ranger Oscar Byamungu Mianziro back in March.
Park rangers carrying out an anti-poaching patrol in Kahuzi-Biega National Park.A.J.Plumptre / WCS
"We are very concerned about these increased threats to the rangers and their families, and to the protection of these animals," Andrew Plumptre, WCS senior conservation scientist for Africa, said in a statement.
Grauer's gorilla—a subspecies of eastern gorilla, the world's largest ape—are confined to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. They were listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species back in September after their population dropped 77 percent.
In 1998, it was estimated that 17,000 Grauer's gorillas lived in the forests of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Now, fewer than 3,800 of these gorillas still live in the wild, according to a report from the WCS, Flora and Fauna International and the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature.
The main cause of the decline is hunting for bushmeat and civil unrest, which is taking place around villages and mining camps that have been established by armed groups deep in the forests in eastern DR Congo.
"The civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo has led to the wide availability of arms and created a plethora of militia groups who control different territories in the east of the country," Andrew Plumptre, senior conservation scientist for the WCS Africa Program, told PLoS One. "This has been terrible for conservation of its wildlife."
The London Zoo was placed on lockdown Thursday after a 400-pound adult western lowland silverback gorilla escaped from his enclosure around 5:15 p.m. local time.
Visitors at the Gorilla Kingdom exhibit were given quite a scare when the 18-year-old silverback, Kumbuka, began smashing his way out of the enclosure—a few seconds of which was caught on video.
Some visitors were ushered into indoor areas where they could be kept safe and others were evacuated while Gorilla Kingdom staff and police searched for Kumbuka.
Malcolm Fitzpatrick, curator of mammals at the zoo, told The Guardian Kumbuka's escape was a "minor incident" and that he got into a secure keeper area that was not open to the public. He was tranquilized around 7 p.m. and returned to the Gorilla Kingdom where he was given extra treats and was interacting with the rest of his family.
"At no time were any of our visitors in any danger," Fitzpatrick said. "The gorilla did not get out of the safe space, there were only about 100 visitors, it was the end of the day and I would like to thank all of those visitors for co-operating and moving into buildings."
The zoo is launching a full investigation into how Kumbuka got out of his enclosure, but sources say that the cage door to the gorilla's enclosure was left open. "Every enclosure has a gated area which is off-limits to the public to stop animals running straight past when the door is opened," the source told The Telegraph. "That door shouldn't have been left open."
Born Free deeply concerned by reports of gorilla escape at London Zoo https://t.co/6k0aJS5ECr https://t.co/SUEbhVhl7n— Born Free Foundation (@Born Free Foundation)1476443377.0
"While we are relieved that this incident apparently ended without injury to visitors or to Kumbuka, it is yet another startling reminder of the risks associated with maintaining dangerous wild animals in captivity," Chris Draper, associate director for Animal Welfare and Care at the Born Free Foundation, said. "This incident could have ended very differently."
When the escape occurred, the Born Free Foundation said it was already investigating "unconfirmed reports from a BBC journalist of damage to the perimeter glass at the gorilla enclosure and of a previous near-escape involving the gorillas."
Born Free, which wants to see zoos phased out, is also calling on the government advisory committee on zoo issues to investigate the safety and welfare of great apes in UK zoos.
"How many more times does this sort of incident have to happen? How many times must people be put at serious risk before what Born Free has been saying for years is acknowledged? Zoos simply cannot guarantee the safety of their visitors and their animals," said Will Travers, president of the Born Free Foundation.
World's Largest Gorilla Declared Critically Endangered - EcoWatch https://t.co/7ZpyQJISuG @SWildlifepics @anon99percenter @MoveTheWorld— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1473112838.0