A Sumatran orang-utan known as Nieas has been shot dead by zookeepers in the western German city of Duisburg. The 26-year-old ape made a break for freedom after its door was not properly locked.
According to a statement released by the zoo on Tuesday, Nieas became agitated when he was confronted by a second male orang-utan after escaping from his paddock on Monday night.
In his moment of panic, the primate, who weighed more than 100 kilograms, reportedly began swinging from an overhead lamp, from where he could have jumped the fence and escaped onto the nearby highway.
Duisburg Zoo said using tranquilizer darts instead of live ammunition was not viable, because "it would have taken several minutes for the sedative to take effect."
"By this time the ape would already have been in city traffic, and we couldn't have ruled out injury to members of the public," the zoo added.
Keepers successfully sedated the second orang-utan, Bayu, before he was able to escape.
Criticism from animal rights activists
"Nieas came to us as a little bundle and was definitely part of our family," said zoo director Achim Winken, adding that no professional action would be taken against the employee responsible for the fatal shot.
"The consequence is that he's shocked and will remain so until the end of his life," Winken said.
Animal rights activists in Germany condemned Nieas' death soon after the shooting.
"In general, there are questions about whether it's even possible to keep primates like great apes properly in zoos," said Marius Tuente, spokesman for the German Animal Rights Society.
"It's no longer ethically defensible to use our near relatives for the purposes of keeping them on display."
ksb/msh (dpa, AFP)