Ape escape - chimps make a 'ladder' to flee zoo enclosure
Chimpanzees used a branch to escape from an enclosure at Belfast Zoo.
A zookeeper blamed recent stormy weather for weakening trees inside their corral as visitors had a closer encounter than planned.
The chimps turned a branch into a makeshift ladder and scaled high walls surrounding their pen, footage posted to social media showed.
Shocked visitors described seeing one of the apes emerge from the bushes on to a path at the zoo north of the city on Saturday.
"Don't escape you bad little gorilla," said one child watching the spectacle.
Other chimpanzees were filmed sitting on top of the walls.
The great escape ended when the animals returned to their quarters.
It was the second breach in recent weeks after an endangered red panda went missing when electric fences failed.
The animal was recaptured in the driveway of a nearby house.
"Zookeepers were present as the chimpanzee quickly returned from an adjacent wall to the rest of the group inside the enclosure," said Belfast City Council, which runs the zoo.
Zookeeper Alyn Cairns said trees in their enclosure have been weakened by the storms, allowing the creatures to break them and use them as a ladder to escape.
"They're intelligent primates and know they're not supposed to be out of their enclosure, so got back in themselves," he said.
Elaine Monaghan's grandchildren were at the zoo at the time. "Why weren't the enclosures checked? This could have ended very badly," she said.
She was happy the incident had ended well for her family.
"Everyone has their own way of reacting. Had it been me, I'd have run for the hills," she said.