Chimps break loose, briefly, at Kansas City Zoo

It was not quite "Planet of The Apes" -- human civilization is still here and still in charge.

But the chimpanzees at the Kansas City Zoo did briefly outwit their keepers Thursday afternoon, breaking loose from their enclosure and forcing zoo attendants and employees to shelter inside behind locked doors.

The pen-break started about 4 p.m., when one of the chimpanzees broke a 6-foot-long tree limb and used it as a ladder to scale the wall around the creatures' enclosure, then encouraged others to follow, officials said. 

As many as seven chimps climbed the wall, and three made it to the other side in the zoo's "Africa" area, officials said, before employees lured the chimps back into their enclosures with food treats.

“That’s what chimps do, they figure things out," Randy Wisthoff, CEO and executive director of the zoo, told local reporters in a televised interview. "They will use that intelligence they have to problem-solve. Well, they solved a problem."

The zoo had about 1,800 visitors Thursday, but there were probably only 100 to 200 visitors in the Africa exhibit area at the time of the escape, Wisthoff said.

None of the chimps escaped into any public areas, however, and no injuries were reported. The largest chimp was probably about 150 pounds, and the smallest about 80 pounds, Wisthoff said. News media helicopter video from the scene showed one primate roaming around atop a tall enclosure wall, at times sitting down, as if in no particular hurry.

The video was a big hit online, as viewers commented on social media about the primates making a run for it. The escape lasted about 90 minutes, which gave everyone plenty of time to make jokes on Twitter -- from a safe distance, of course.

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