Zoos are an entertaining place to spend a day with your family, but they’re highly controversial for animal lovers.
While zoos are an important part of animal conservation, some argue the animals inside would be happier if they were set free.
Not many animals get to weigh in on the debate, but a group of chimps from the Belfast Zoo made their views quite clear this weekend.
The Great (ape) Escape!!!— U105 (@U105radio) February 9, 2019
These chimps at Belfast Zoo used a broken tree branch as a ladder today.
Video credit: Danielle Monaghan and Dean McFaul pic.twitter.com/Y9pEVOI65y
On Saturday, a family watching the chimpanzee enclosure got an unexpected show when one ape made a daring escape in broad daylight.
The crafty chimp - so far unnamed - climbed up a stay branch that had been knocked into its enclosure by a recent storm. Using the log like a ladder, the chimp was able to climb the high wall meant to keep him in place.
Other chimps followed suit, but only one climbed out of the enclosure entirely to take a walk around the zoo and mingle with guests.
Visitors filmed the ape inspecting his new surroundings, as excited children can be heard marveling at their close encounter with the creature.
A zoo spokesperson told the BBC that apes are smart enough to know they can’t leave their enclosure, and the escapee actually returned without being wrangled by his keepers. They called the escape a "highly unusual" event that happened in spite of daily enclosure checks.
But visitors were not pleased that the potentially dangerous animal was able to walk around so close to humans.
This is how close it came to my grandchildren. Belfast Zoo trying to make out it wasn’t a big deal pic.twitter.com/J38lBJyef4— Elaine Monaghan (@1607_elaine) February 9, 2019
"Why weren’t the enclosures checked? This could have ended very badly," Elaine Monaghan told The Irish Times. "This is how close it came to my grandchildren."
The Belfast Zoo actually has an embarrassing number of recent breakouts: a spider monkey that climbed out of the zoo was struck by a car last year, and a red panda went missing last month, eventually turning up outside a nearby home.