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Gorilla Who Escaped Twice From Cage Prompts Modification Of Enclosure

December 4, 1986 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A wily female gorilla struck with wanderlust has been making monkeys of her keepers at the Los Angeles Zoo, escaping twice with the help of a young male gorilla.

But zookeepers have modified her cage to put a stop to her wayfaring ways.

Evelyn, a 200-pound lowland gorilla born in captivity, spent 45 minutes on an afternoon stroll around the grounds Nov. 19 after climbing on the shoulders of her accomplice, Leonel, and scaling a 12-foot wall designed to prevent such escapes.

Startled patrons watched Evelyn’s foray, which ended when keepers shot her with a tranquilizer dart and took her back to the enclosure.

Workers raised the wall by several inches at one side of the exhibit, said Ed Alonso, the zoo’s chief animal curator.

But that wasn’t an effective deterrent.

Evelyn escaped again the next day with Leonel’s help, this time climbing the wall at a spot where it hadn’t been raised. ″We didn’t think she could get out there,″ Alonso said.

Zookeepers’ efforts to shoo her back into the enclosure failed, so she again was shot with a tranquilizer dart.

″The problem we have with these animals is that they have fairly high intelligence and are always curious and ... if they can a find way to get out of their exhibit, they certainly will,″ Alonso said.

Although Evelyn didn’t do much more than wander around looking at people, zoo officials said there was some danger.

″She has a very powerful bite,″ said Robert Barnes, principal animal keeper at the zoo.

Keeper Jennifer Chatfield said Evelyn and Leonel ″definitely communicate. ... I don’t know about planning a break, but they definitely vocalize.″

The 10-year-old female ″has learned to either coerce or convince the young male to stand against the wall,″ Alonzo said.

After the second escape, Evelyn was banished to the gorillas’ night quarters until workers could raise the entire wall several more inches. She returned to the outdoor exhibit Thanksgiving Day, and there haven’t been any more escapes, Alonso said.

The most recent wanderings were not Evelyn’s first.

Alonso said she had escaped several times by using handholds left along the wall by workers who remodeled the exhibit about eight years ago. The handholds were later removed.

Another gorilla, Cleo, escaped briefly last year before being captured, and two Capuchin monkeys were able to squeeze through the bars of their cage before it was fixed, Alonso said. ″Most of the animals in the zoo can get out if they really try.″

The San Diego Zoo has had similar problems with restive apes.

Ken Allen, a 16-year-old orangutan, escaped twice from his enclosure in the summer of 1985. Both times he was lured back by keepers without incident.