Sydney Zoo was closed to the public temporarily on Friday morning and an investigation has been launched after the sudden death of a chimpanzee.
Emotional staff could be seen comforting each other as the 10-year-old ape, named Mogli, was fished out of a pond about 10.30am.
It was then wrapped in a tarpaulin, loaded onto the back of a ute and driven to a large warehouse inside the zoo’s Bungarribee headquarters, in Sydney’s west.
Lisa Christie, Sydney Zoo’s duty manager, said it was a sad day.
“Mogli was found in the chimpanzee habitat this morning by our team,” she said.
“We are currently investigating the circumstances and once more information is known we will make a further statement.
“We would like to confirm that media reports of an escaped animal are false.
“The team are in a state of deep shock and grief.”
Large crowds of people could be seen queueing outside the facility’s locked main entrance while just metres away keepers removed the chimp’s body from the enclosure, which is part of the zoo’s “primate boulevard” attraction.
Crowds formed metres from where keepers removed the chimp’s body from the enclosure, which is part of the zoo’s “primate boulevard” attraction.
Many were were unaware of the death.
“They haven’t told us anything,” Edwin Claxton said.
“I’ve been asking lots of questions, but haven’t had any answers, and we had an admission time that’s about to run out, so I hope we get to go in.”
Waiting in front of the ape enclosure, Maria Abaya said rumours of an animal loose had spread through the crowd.
“I thought it was just loose, I heard there was an animal that was loose, possibly an ape. So to find out it’s a death, that’s shocking. It’s really sad.”
Vu Nguien said his family had been in line for more than 30 minutes and was committed to getting inside.
“We didn’t know that about the chimp. That’s what the kids are here for. What can you do? I don’t know how to tell it to them.”
Chimpanzees, which are native to central and western parts of Africa, typically live for more than four decades.
It’s the second animal to die at the zoo in less than 12 months, after a three-year-old giraffe succumbed to a gut illness in June 2020.
The condition is common in giraffes.
The zoo, Sydney’s second, opened in December 2019.
Before opening, it was locked in a legal battle with the Harbour City’s iconic Taronga Zoo over plans to brand itself Sydney Zoo.
Lawyers for Taronga – Australia’s largest zoo, which dates to 1916 – argued the naming the new facility Sydney would confuse patrons.