10/01/2017. Monti a chimpanzee who escaped from the Pretoria Zoo but recaptured an hour later. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Pretoria - Moti, a chimpanzee which is a new arrival at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria, escaped from his enclosure and took a stroll in the city on Saturday morning.

It is believed Moti got out while he was being given breakfast in a conservation area out of public view by conservation staff. According to a street vendor near the zoo, he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the chimpanzee.

“I thought I had become delusional. I asked my friend just to verify it (was a chimp),” said Vusi Mabasa.

He said the chimp was casually strolling down Margareta Street - a little street between Boom Street and the zoo’s research centre - and looking at people and vehicles as they passed.

“To my surprise people were not entirely terrified of the chimp. I thought people would run for cover, but instead onlookers took photos and marvelled at him,” said Mabasa.

A spokesman for the zoo, Craig Allenby, said they were alerted as soon as the chimp escaped.

“Zoo staff responded quickly and professionally and our senior veterinarian was called to assist,” said Allenby. Emergency protocol was immediately followed, which included about 10 zoo staff assisted by the Metro Police to manage the crowd which gathered while the chimp was pursued.

Allenby said they managed to track Moti down and attempted to lure him back to the zoo.

“We never lost sight of him when he was out in the street. He was always within our sight and on our radar the whole time,” said Allenby. He said zoo staff almost had Moti back inside when he was scared by a dog. This left them with no other option but to tranquilise him and take him back safely to his enclosure. Moti is one of two new male chimpanzees brought in from Israel last October.

Moti, along with Abshalom, is still in quarantine at the zoo. The two male chimps arrived in the country from Ramat Gan Zoo in Tel Aviv and the Tisch Family Zoo in Jerusalem. The Pretoria zoo has been without chimps for three years. “Moti is a very docile chimp. He did not harm anyone; he was simply curious,” said Allenby. “The vets have since reported that he is doing fine after his little morning stroll,” he said. An investigation is under way to determine whether there was negligence by zoo staff.

In 2013 a black mamba called ‘Houdini’ went missing from his terrarium at the zoo’s Reptile Park.

An extensive search ensued and at one stage the zoo even contemplated whether the mamba may have been stolen. Houdini was later found to have been hiding out of sight within his enclosure.

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