The Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire, UK was closed today while staff tried to round up two chimpanzees, named Jonnie and Coco, that had escaped earlier from their enclosure, the BBC News reports. Coco was caught unharmed, but Jonnie was shot and killed.
No human beings were harmed in the incident. The chimps were two of eight the zoo had on the premises. They had transferred from the London Zoo in 2006.
The bloody incident underscores our uneasy relationship to zoos and animal keepers worldwide. While a number of eco-sensitive folks are unable to stomach the idea of seeing any animals "behind bars," others have long argued that zoos provide invaluable centers for research, conservation and education, especially of the less fortunate, who are unlikely to have the means to connect with exotic wildlife in nature. Few greens defend so-called "roadside zoos" and private collectors who pen up exotic animals in crowded, squalid conditions, either for profit or personal interest.
The ungoing debate about captive breeding programs also continues. Some point out that although zoos have clearly had some success in breeding critically endangered species, there have been few successful stories of actually reintroducing those animals into the wild, since human encroachment and habitat degradation continue at alarming rates.
When it comes to humankind's closest living relatives, chimpanzees, the issues can be particularly emotional. Courts in Austria threw out a case just this week in which defenders of a chimp there had sought to have him declared a legal "person" in order to shore up long-term protection.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.