3 gorillas briefly escape enclosure at Como Zoo

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Three gorillas escaped their enclosure at St. Paul's Como Park Zoo Thursday morning, but no visitors were at risk, the zoo said.

In a news release, the zoo said at 9:50 a.m., a bachelor group of three gorillas had left their indoor enclosure through an unsecured door behind the scenes of the indoor gorilla habitat, and went down a hallway used by the zookeepers, FOX 9 added.

Two of the gorillas – Sampson and Jabir – were back in their enclosures by 10:10 a.m., while Virgil, the third gorilla, continued to explore inside the "gorilla-proof barriers" – he was back in the enclosure by 10:40 a.m., the zoo said.

While Virgil was exploring, he found the room where the zookeepers store the treats.

“He found the enrichment closet and he was playing with the boomer balls and throwing things around,” Senior zookeeper Allison Jungheim told FOX 9.

Photos of the three gorillas who escaped, according to KARE 11 on Twitter:

It's not clear how the zookeepers got the gorillas back into the enclosure. The zoo did say it has a detailed emergency response procedure which includes animal escape situations that are regularly practiced.

"The Como emergency response team moved into position to successfully mitigate the situation and at no time was the public, staff, or animals ever in danger," the release said.

The zoo said the gorillas were always secured within the building and within "gorilla-proof barriers."

The zoo doesn't open until 10 a.m., and those who were at the zoo at the time were "secured into safe areas," the zoo said.

Some zoo patrons shared the experience on Twitter:

Some organizations and Twitter users cracked jokes about the gorilla's escape:

Someone even created a Como Zoo gorilla Twitter account after Thursday's incident.

Back in 1994, a 400-pound gorilla named Casey was on the loose for about 45 minutes after escaping its exhibit by climbing over a 15-foot concrete wall and a 4-foot fence, FOX 9 reports.

The zoo has seven Western Lowland gorillas, the Pioneer Press says. The gorillas can range from 200 to 500 pounds and live up to 50 years in captivity, according to the Como Zoo website.

Gorillas have been at the zoo since the 1950s, the Pioneer Press notes. The primates recently got a new habitat, which opened at the zoo last summer. With the new Gorilla Forest is 13,000 square feet, which makes it the largest all-mesh gorilla enclosure in North America, the Star Tribune reports.

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