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Gorilla escapes at London Zoo: celebrities react to extraordinary story

Gemma Strong
Gemma StrongOnline Digital News Director
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A gorilla sparked a major incident at London Zoo on Thursday evening after escaping from its enclosure. Staff and members of the public visiting the attraction were locked into buildings and ordered not to leave certain areas after the 29-stone male silverback managed to break out.

Armed police were called in as staff with tranquiliser darts roamed the zoo looking for the animal, before it was eventually recaptured.

Kumbuka the gorilla escapes from London Zoo

Kumbuka the gorilla escaped from his enclosure at London Zoo on Thursday

Reports suggest that the gorilla, named Kumbuka, had been attempting to break out of his enclosure earlier in the day by throwing himself against a viewing window.

Eyewitnesses Hannah O'Donoghue-Hibbs and Charlotte Neild described the gorilla's escape as "like being in Jurassic Park".  Another visitor to the Zoo, Jonathan Mall, said he and others were forced to take refuge in a bird enclosure for 30 minutes as armed officers arrived.

"I was kind of scared, to be honest, because we were in a really closed space where everything is green and beautiful but there could be a gorilla hiding behind every bush," the 33-year-old, from Hamburg, said.

Kumbuka the gorilla escapes from London Zoo

According to reports, the male silverback was throwing himself against a viewing window earlier in the day

Following Kumbuka's recapture, Malcolm Fitzpatrick, curator of mammals at London Zoo, told the BBC: "At 17.15 our male gorilla got out of his back dens into a secure keeper area. Our staff were able to respond quickly and Kumbuka was tranquilised and returned to his dens.

"We're happy to report that he's up and grumbling, and interacting with the rest of his family in his gorilla kingdom."

Kumbuka is thought to be one of at least seven gorillas housed at the zoo’s £5million Gorilla Kingdom, which was opened in 2007 by Prince Philip. His escape caused a stir on social media, with members of the public – and some celebrities – commenting on the news.

Kumbuka the gorilla escapes from London Zoo: reactions

David Walliams was among those reacting to the extraordinary story online

"The gorilla has been spotted drinking an Aperol Spritz at the bar in Chiltern Firehouse!" joked author Marian Keyes, while David Walliams tweeted: "An incredible story that could have come straight out of a children's book."

The incident comes five months after a gorilla named Harambe was killed at Cincinnati Zoo. The 400-pound, 17-year-old male gorilla came into contact with a four-year-old boy when he crawled through a barrier before falling into the animal's enclosure.

The event sparked a huge backlash online, and a number of famous faces reacted with outrage to Harambe's killing.

"Shame on those for the murdering of #Harambe," tweeted Kelly Osbourne, with Zelda Williams questioned: "How was the gorilla enclosure not child proof? You're dealing with an endangered species & yet you've made it possible for kids to fall in?" Ricky Gervais, meanwhile, wrote: "It seems some gorillas make better parents than some people."