Following an investigation by the United States Department of Agriculture into Bill the chimpanzee’s escape from the Sequoia Park Zoo last week, the zoo was cleared of any wrongdoing.
On Oct. 7 Bill’s cage was opened. At approximately 10:45 p.m. a resident approximately one-and-a-half blocks from the zoo phoned police to alert them that Bill was in his backyard.
Although police and zoo officials will not release exactly how 59-year-old Bill was freed, they confirmed that it was as a result of vandalism.
Shortly after he escaped, Eureka police officers and three zoo officials responded.
“He came right up to me and I knelt down and he … sniffed (me) and put his arms around me and we just sat there,” said Jan Roletto, Bill’s primary keeper. “He groomed me and he (made) some vocalizations.”
After spending a few minutes calming him down, Roletto lead him back to the zoo, stopping with him when he wanted to look around.
“They didn’t find us at fault at all,” said Gretchen Ziegler, the zoo’s curator and supervisor.
She said the USDA was also “complimentary regarding the zoo’s successful recovery efforts.”
During its investigation, USDA investigators also looked into complaints made by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals regarding the zoo’s security precautions and why Bill lives in “isolation.”
“They just shared the complaint with us and then they investigated those two complaints and we discussed all those issues with (them),” Ziegler said.
The USDA is aware of Bill’s housing situation and has been in multiple discussions with the zoo about it.
“Bill is a retired circus chimp and as a result of that environment has had very little social interaction with other chimps,” a USDA report stated. “He has demonstrated social aggression toward conspecifics in the past but interacts with zoo personnel and zoo visitors on a daily basis. His social needs are not being taken lightly by the zoo staff and discussions of what and how to provide Bill with needed socialization are ongoing. Enrichment is provided and changed regularly to provide mental stimulation.”