Sir David Attenborough feels 'deep sorrow' for escaped gorilla Kumbuka and urges zoo visitors to be respectful

'That finally the alpha male, the big gorilla, got fed up with it, is hardly surprising'

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The Independent Online

Sir David Attenborough has said it was “hardly surprising” a silverback gorilla which escaped from London Zoo was “fed up” after being subjected to visitors watching him through a glass panel for up to 10 hours a day. 

The naturalist and broadcaster, 90, said he felt “deep, deep sympathy and sorrow” for captive gorillas after Kumbuka escaped from his enclosure on Wednesday. The male gorilla entered the secure keepers’ area before being recaptured a few hours later. He did not enter into public areas at any point. 

Appearing on Good Morning Britain, Sir David urged visitors to show more compassion and respect the “wonderful” animals’ privacy. 

“In the forests of west Africa, they don’t live out in the open," he said. "They aren’t stared at by people. They value their privacy.

“To be subjected to ... to have a panel of glass, for 10 hours a day or whatever it is.

“If the people were respectful that would be something. 

“Sometimes visitors to zoos are not respectful and they start shrieking or waving their arms in order to get the poor gorilla to do something.

“You might think, oh they’re just animals. They are not just animals. They are related to us. They value their privacy. Just imagine what it’s like to be there. […] That finally the alpha male, the big gorilla, got fed up with it, is hardly surprising.“

A spokesperson for ZSL London Zoo said Kumbuka and the rest of the gorillas are provided with “multiple choices” of where to spend time, including constant access to off-show dens and a secluded cave on their outdoor island. 

A spokesperson told The Independent: “Their indoor day gym also has restricted viewing areas with bamboo screening to afford additional privacy to the gorillas.

“The gorillas here at ZSL London Zoo are part of a European conservation breeding programme and Kumbuka has fathered two infants, helping us to preserve a healthy back-up population of this critically endangered species.

“Sir David Attenborough only recently visited ZSL London Zoo, where he toured the Zoo before attending an event to rename the Komodo dragon enclosure after him. In a video recorded during that visit, Sir David said of ZSL London Zoo: ‘The other [function of ZSL] is that it should bring people, the public at large, to become aware of the wonders of the natural world which [they] are doing spectacularly well here from what I have seen this morning, and in ground-breaking ways. […] London Zoo is doing a marvellous job, I have just been looking around and it’s a long time since I’ve been here and the changes have been remarkable – really thrilling.’”