A 70-pound orangutan escaped his enclosure Wednesday for about 15 minutes before Oklahoma City Zoo workers got him back into a holding area of the Great EscApe exhibit. Shortly after 10 a.m., Elok, an 8-year-old Sumatran orangutan, climbed into a dry moat surrounding his enclosure and over an exterior wall into a flower bed next to a guest path. No guests were in the immediate area at the time, said zoo officials, who waited until the next day to issue a news release about the incident. "He shimmied underneath the hotwire and down the moat. We’re not sure how he got out on the other side,” zoo spokeswoman Tara Henson said. A zoo employee saw the escape and called "code red,” which alerted other employees a dangerous animal was loose. An announcement was made over speakers, and about 20 guests, along with workers, were ushered into buildings as a precaution. Elok had walked about 100 feet from his habitat when zoo employees arrived in several vehicles, zoo Executive Director Dwight Scott said. Elok climbed into the back of a zoo pickup, and the driver drove him back to the ape holding area. "He was very calm. It went very well,” said Scott, who said Elok is young but has incredible strength. Elok, who is new to the zoo, now is confined to indoor areas of his habitat while zoo staffers try to determine how he escaped. The electric fence may need to be changed, Scott said. The zoo’s other orangutan, an older female, is still on display. Scott said safety drills are conducted at the Oklahoma City Zoo at least once a month, with scenarios ranging from snake bites and tornadoes to lost children and escapes. Elok came from the Houston Zoo to the Oklahoma City Zoo in November, but only this week was moved to an outdoor exhibit. He was born at the Memphis Zoo and was hand-raised until he reached 12 months of age. "It was only his second day in the exhibit, so he’s going to do a lot of exploring,” Henson said.
Past incidentIn 2003, a young female gorilla used a fallen branch to escape her enclosure at the zoo. She saw a keeper and returned to her exhibit, Scott said. That led the zoo to change procedures.