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Kumbuka hates the constant attention ...he had a troubled early life; FEARS FOR GORILLAS AFTER ESCAPE BID Expert: Great ape yearns for privacy.

THE 29-stone gorilla which caused panic at London Zoo after escaping from its enclosure had a difficult upbringing and "needs privacy".

Kumbuka - an 18-year-old silverback male - went on the loose for more than an hour on Thursday, causing widespread alarm among terrified visitors.

Many reported seeing the huge beast becoming "agitated" and "behaving worryingly" moments before it launched itself at the glass of its enclosure.

SMASH on our front But the true story of his troubled early life that saw him rejected by his mum and shipped from zoo to zoo around Europe emerged yesterday.

An urgent investigation is now under way into how Kumbuka escaped.

Zoo bosses have tried to play down the "minor incident", but last night prominent animal welfare groups questioned what could have caused his troubling behaviour.

Leading wildlife organisation the Born Free Foundation said the incident was a "startling reminder" of the risks of keeping dangerous wild animals in captivity.

It has called for an inquiry and for the Zoos Expert Committee, the Government advisory body, to investigate the safety and welfare of great apes in UK zoos.

y Chris Draper, of Born Free, said: "While we are relieved that this incident apparently ended without injury to visitors or to the gorilla, it is yet another startling reminder of the risks associated with maintaining dangerous wild animals in captivity.

Kumbuka page "This incident could have ended very differently. We are calling for an urgent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding this escape, and into safety procedures at London Zoo."

Ian Redmond, of conservation group the Gorilla Organization, said Kumbuka needs to be able to get away from prying eyes.

He said: "Looking at gorillas affects them the same way it would affect us. They cannot interact when someone is constantly watching them. They share a lot of characteristics with us.

"Kumbuka needs some privacy." He suggested the zoo should install privacy barriers so the animal can have time to himself and his family group.

Kumbuka, a western lowland gorilla, arrived at London Zoo three years ago to take part in a breeding programme.

He was born in Belfast Zoo in 1997, but after being rejected by his mother, was moved to Germany and hand-reared in Stuttgart Zoo with other youngsters.

In 2006, he was transferred to Paignton keep eye Zoo, in Devon, where he was homed alongside two other western lowlands, Kivu and Kiondo, who also came from Stuttgart.

He throw at you. However, zoo insiders said he led a lonely existence after refusing at first to interact with the other gorillas and zoo staff.

RICHARD WILDLIFE wildlife photographer Richard Austin, who snapped Kumbuka many times at Paignton, revealed the animal was never a fan of visitors.

He said: "That gorilla was always a your handful, make no mistake about it. In my view, he always disliked people.

on him.

would "I always felt you had to keep your eye on him.

rocks "I would be taking pictures and he would make out he was paying no attention and he would be fiddling with the ground beneath him and then suddenly 'whoosh', he'd try and throw a rock at you.

AUSTIN PHOTOGRAPHER gh "He could never quite manage to get the rocks over the moat, but you always had to keep an eye out just in case."

In 2013 it was decided that Kumbuka should be transferred to London Zoo to enter its breeding programme.

He quickly became the zoo's main attraction, soon fathering Gernot, a young male who was born in November last year to female gorilla Effie. But zoo insiders have suggested he has often shown signs of being "unhappy" and "agitated" at being in the enclosure.

Others have criticised the environment as not being "fit for purpose". The PS5million section was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 2007, then the largest investment at the zoo for 40 years. But, the same year, there were warnings that animals could escape unless security was improved.

London Zoo yesterday admitted it was investigating the reports of aggressive behaviour by the ape immediately before his escape. Malcolm Fitzpatrick, senior curator of mammals, said it was "too early in the day" to say whether keeper error was responsible.

He said: "Silverback gorillas demonstrate display behaviour where they bash into a tree or thump the ground.

"This is behaviour that gorillas in the wild and also gorillas in zoos carry out."

The incident has reignited global debate about keeping large primates in captivity after the shooting of the gorilla Harambe at Cincinnati Zoo in May.

Harambe, also a western lowland gorilla, was shot dead after a three-yearold boy climbed into his enclosure.

russell.myers@mirror.co.uk AGED 10 Kumbuka at Paignton where he had 'lonely SCENE Zoo staff inspect damage gorilla enclosure after

You had to keep your eye on him. He would throw rocks at you RICHARD AUSTIN wildlife photographerBeing constantly looked at affects them the same way it would us. He needs privacy IAN REDMOND of conservation group the gorilla organization

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 15, 2016
Words:844
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