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Swedish zoo reported to police for killing 3 escaped chimps

Furuvik Zoo is accused of violating the Swedish Animal Welfare Act after four chimpanzees that escaped their enclosure were shot by staff, leaving three dead and one injured with more still on the loose.

(CN) — Four chimpanzees are on the loose inside a monkey house a day after staff at Sweden's Furuvik Zoo shot four chimps that were trying to escape, killing three and injuring one that returned to the building.

The remaining four chimps, including the injured one, are monitored from outside by an emergency team and police. Other staff and journalists are not allowed to enter the monkey house as the situation is deemed “a danger to human life,” the zoo, located near Gävle about 100 miles north of Stockholm, said in a statement Thursday.

Should the remaining chimps try to escape the monkey house, staff will have no other option than to euthanize them, according to the zoo, which said it hopes the primates can return to their designated enclosure with or without outside help.

Wednesday’s fatal shooting of three chimps has sparked outcry from animal welfare organizations and social media users who blame the zoo for not ensuring that the animals stayed in their confinement.

On Thursday, Swedish police confirmed that a civilian has reported the incident for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which states that animal enclosures must be escape-proof.

 “It is clear that this has not been the case,” Jonas Eronen, press spokesperson for the police in the Mitt region, told news service Ekot.

For some frequent visitors to the zoo, the chimpanzees have been a main attraction. Hearing about their escape and deaths brought dark clouds to zoo visitors.

“It is very sad,” said Emma Westerberg, who often visits Furuvik Zoo, to broadcaster SVT. “The chimpanzees are Furuvik Zoo for me."

“The park is of great importance to Furuvik and the chimpanzees are a large part of the park," said Thomas Jansson, who lives next to the zoo. “We were there all the time when my children were small. Everyone has a relationship with Furuvik, and it's the chimpanzees who do that."

Ing-Marie Persson, a former caretaker of the chimpanzees for 30 years, has criticized the zoo for how it handled the escape.

“It is very unprofessionally done. I think they panicked,” Persson told SVT.

Annika Troselius, information manager at Parks and Resorts Scandinavia, which owns the zoo, responded to the criticism by saying they are dealing with a high-risk animal.

“What you have to remember is that our biggest and first focus is that no human gets hurt and therefore you need to act quickly in this incident,” said Troselius said.

She added, “It is extremely tragic that it had to lead [to] them being euthanized. But it's a decision we made then and there because we saw it as the only way out and the right thing to do."

The zoo told Swedish media it had to kill the chimps because there was not enough tranquilizer for them.

“To shoot with an anesthetic arrow, you need to be very close to the animal. This, combined with the fact that it can take up to 10 minutes for the anesthetic to take effect, would mean a great danger to people's safety,” the zoo said in its statement Thursday.

According to the animal rights organization World Animal Protection, the Swedish Work Environment Authority should take a "fundamental review of the safety situation" at all of Sweden's zoos.

“This is another example of a systematic error where I think that Work Environment work seems to be neglected,” said Sandra Jönsson, an expert at the organization, about the chimpanzees' escape to SVT.

She also referred to several other recent incidents in Sweden’s zoo and animal husbandry industry.

In October, a king cobra, one of the world's most venomous snakes, escaped its terrarium at the Skansen Aquarium in Stockholm. It made its way back to the aquarium after a week.

Before that, an eland antelope mauled a zookeeper to death at the Öland Zoo and Amusement Park in August. The victim, a 58-year-old Romanian man, had not previously worked professionally with animals, his family claimed.

“The industry must get to the bottom of what kind of animal husbandry you should have. There are a number of zoos that deliver as you would expect but there is too much sprawl,” said Jönsson.

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