Oddly Enough

Chimps' break for lunch forces public from zoo

A Chimpanzee sucks on a giant ice cube during hot weather at Chester Zoo in Chester, northern England, July 2, 2009. REUTERS/Phil Noble

LONDON (Reuters) - Chester Zoo, the country’s most popular wildlife attraction, was evacuated on Sunday after 30 chimpanzees escaped from their enclosure.

The animals made their escape at lunchtime and found their way into a keeper area where their food is normally prepared.

Visitors were asked to leave the 110-acre zoo as keepers rounded up the chimps.

“We had an army of chimps eating their way through the keeper’s kitchen and the decision was taken, quite rightly, to evacuate,” a spokeswoman said.

“By around 4 pm we had managed to get all the chimps back in their enclosure, some of them with very full bellies.”

There were no injuries to members of the public or staff and the zoo said the decision to evacuate was taken as a precautionary measure. It apologised for the incident and an investigation was underway into how the animals escaped.

Chester Zoo, in Cheshire, north west England, is home to more than 7,000 animals and attracts more than a million visitors each year.

Reporting by Christina Fincher; editing by Philippa Fletcher