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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Zoo criticised for killing chimp
BBC Map showing Whipsnade Zoo
Jonnie and Coco broke free from their enclosure at Whipsnade Zoo
An animal campaign group has criticised zoo bosses for shooting dead a chimpanzee that escaped.

Two chimps - Jonnie and Coco - broke free from their enclosure at Whipsnade Zoo over the weekend.

Coco was recaptured but Jonnie was killed in the interests of public safety, said the Zoological Society of London which runs the Bedfordshire zoo.

Animal Defenders International (ADI) said holding chimpanzees in captivity should be reconsidered.

But ZSL defended its work with chimps, saying its participation in the European breeding programme was helping to protect the endangered species.

Tim Phillips, ADI's campaigns director, said: "It will be said that Jonnie was shot because he was dangerous but this just further raises the question 'how suitable are these animals as a source of entertainment?'

Chimpanzees have been compared in intelligence and emotions to a human child which shows the magnitude of this tragedy at Whipsnade
Tim Phillips, ADI's campaigns director

"The sad fate of Jonnie reminds us that we urgently need to re-evaluate the way that we treat these, our closest relatives in the animal kingdom.

"They are intelligent, dextrous, with comparable social needs to ourselves, and they display similar emotions.

"Chimpanzees have been compared in intelligence and emotions to a human child which shows the magnitude of this tragedy at Whipsnade.

"One wonders what these animals need to do to convince us that they should not be made prisoners to entertain us, with a death sentence in the event of escape."

A spokeswoman for ZSL defended the shooting of the unpredictable and "potentially dangerous" chimp and said the charity was dedicated to preserving the endangered species.

Potentially dangerous animal

She said: "Our chimpanzee group is part of the European breeding programme that works towards the conservation of these endangered animals.

"The Zoological Society of London is a conservation charity dedicated to protecting animals and their habitats.

"The decision to shoot an animal is not taken lightly by ZSL.

"In this situation keepers were dealing with an unpredictable, strong and potentially dangerous animal."

An investigation is under way to establish how the animals escaped.


SEE ALSO
Keepers shoot escaped chimpanzee
29 Sep 07 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
PSNI fire warning shots at chimp
07 Sep 05 |  Northern Ireland

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