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L.A. Zoo orangutan attempts to escape

About 3,000 visitors are sent toward the exits after he punches his way through the mesh of his enclosure.

May 18, 2008|Jean-Paul Renaud | Times Staff Writer

Bruno, a 29-year-old orangutan at the Los Angeles Zoo, tried to escape from his enclosure Saturday but was stopped in his tracks -- after about 3,000 visitors were herded toward the exit.

After punching a hole through the mesh that surrounds his habitat, Bruno made his move about 3:50 p.m. But instead of heading for freedom, he ended up in a holding area behind the cage, where a handler soon noticed him.

Bruno never made it into the zoo's public area, but his attempt prompted officials to ask the park's visitors to head toward the front of the zoo.

Keepers quickly approached Bruno, one of the zoo's six orangutans, and sedated him.

"He was calm and responded well to the staff," said Gina Dart, promotions coordinator for the zoo. "He was never aggressive."

Bruno's taste of freedom lasted 20 minutes. None of the zoo's other orangutans has ever tried anything similar, said director John R. Lewis.

"He's a trendsetter," Lewis said.

A much more serious incident at the San Francisco Zoo in December left one teenager dead and two more injured when a tiger escaped from her enclosure. Tatiana, a Siberian tiger, was shot and killed as she roamed the park.

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jp.renaud@latimes.com

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