A low-hanging palm was all cheeky Melbourne Zoo gorilla Yakini needed to escape his enclosure and go walkabout before staff recaptured him with a bunch of bananas and a tranquilliser dart.
Between 40 and 50 visitors were ushered out of harm's way and into a gift shop while nine-year-old Yakini spent 20 minutes checking out some of the other zoo inhabitants just before closing time yesterday.
Zoo general curator Dan Maloney said Yakini used a palm frond that had dipped low over a moat to climb out of his enclosure. A staff member spotted him on one of the zoo's walkways.
"His temperament was great. I was one of the first on the scene and I saw he was just pretty calm and he was kind of curious about things, and he made his way up on to the edge of the tree kangaroo enclosure and was looking in,'' Mr Maloney said.
The 92-kilogram gorilla wandered for about 20 minutes, rummaging through bins and climbing on the roof of the butterfly enclosure before he was eventually lured to the elephant barn by a senior keeper carrying a bunch of bananas.
"All the while during this little stroll we were shepherding guests into the gift shop, we were securing gates (and) the vets were getting their tranquilliser darts ready,'' Mr Maloney said.
Zoo staff sedated Yakini from about 20 metres and carried him back to his enclosure, where he lives a bachelor life with his father and half-brother.
"He woke up with a yawn and a stretch and the look on his face was like `I've just had this weirdest dream','' senior keeper Damian Lewis said.
Zoo staff have trimmed the low-hanging palm.