SAN DIEGO — A gorilla breakout at the San Diego Zoo ended tranquilly Monday, but not before a 400-pound silverback male had a 2 1/2-hour tour outside his enclosure, including a visit to a restaurant.
Zoo officials said Memba traipsed out of his enclosure about 5:30 a.m. The gorilla exited through a steel door that employees failed to lock after they removed a beehive from the exhibit. They had not been told that Memba and the three members of his troop had been left in the exhibit overnight after attempts to lure them to their sleeping quarters failed, officials said.
The burly gorilla spent most of his freedom close to the perimeter of the gorilla exhibit, staying in visual contact with the other members of his troop. Memba briefly took in the sights from a balcony on the Treehouse, a restaurant and gift shop complex scheduled to open next month, zoo spokesman Jeff Jouett said.
Security officers, veterinarians and keepers were called in. Memba was subdued by three tranquilizer darts, rolled onto a canvas tarp and carried back to the enclosure by about 10 people.
"Gorillas normally are shy, retiring animals who would rather run than fight," he said. "But they can also deliver a powerful bite and are extremely strong. This could have . . . been a deadly encounter."