Get a load of this monkey business — according to CBS News and the AP, a Parisian zoo evacuated visitors after dozens of baboons escaped from their enclosures Friday afternoon. Not only did the Parisian Zoological Park have to be evacuated of all visitors, but authorities had to close off nearby roads. At press time authorities were not aware of how the baboons got out, but authorities are investigating.
Officials of the park, also known as "Vincennes Zoo" to its visitors, reportedly used a net to capture most of the baboons, and plans to use tranquilizer darts to sedate the rest. Police told French publication Le Parisien the baboons had not made contact with the public; The Guardian reported that most of the baboons gathered around the zoo's "Grand Rocher," a landmark in the zoo made of fake rock. Within hours, reportedly, most of the baboons had been rounded up and put back into their enclosures, with four of the escaped baboons remaining at large. Zoo spokesman Jerome Munier told the Associated Press that the four baboons were located in an closed area.
Zoo officials told The Guardian that although the baboons never made contact with members of the public, people were evacuated as a precaution because baboons could be unpredictable, “especially when stressed,” and are much stronger than humans. Paris police helped further secure the area, which will remain closed until baboons are all safe in their enclosures and the incident has passed. Zookeepers were assured that the remaining baboons would return to their enclosures because the “The dominant males have already gone back"; baboons have a highly organized and competitive social hierarchy that affects their behaviors and interactions, particularly in regards to dominant males.
Parisian Zoological Park opened in 1934, and hasn't had an animal event of this magnitude in its history. However, it has been closed in the past due to becoming too dilapidated and small, according to the Los Angeles Times. Deteriorated conditions led to a closure November 2008 and renovation that took place between 2011 and 2014; during that time, the pens were regrouped into biozones, also known as natural environments, for animal welfare.
The animals spent some time abroad during the renovations, but came back to the renovated zoo to updated, modernized features such as a glass-domed greenhouse that mimics an Amazonian rainforest for the tropical friends, a savanna covered with dry shrub for the rhinos and lions, rocky Patagonia-like terrain for the penguins. The zoo also began showcasing threatened species, such as several types of lemurs native to Madagascar, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Those lemurs didn't stage a coup, but some others in Norfolk did: BBC News reporter Alex Dunlop went viral this month after he was swarmed by a herd of playful albeit terrifying lemurs at the Banham Zoo in Norfolk. Fortunately, Dunlop took the swarm in stride: "Well, this, I think, is one of the more enjoyable parts of the job, counting lemurs," he said of the incident.
It's also a good thing the baboons made it back to their cages safely without causing too much mayhem — in 2013, a group of wild baboons in Western Cape, South Africa caused a lot of mayhem when they ransacked a house, according to the Huffington Post. They entered the house through a second-floor window, which had been left ajar. Neighbors captured footage of the invasion, but could not stop it after the baboons began barking. This, apparently, was not an isolated incident; the BBC explains that baboons in the region have turned to stealing from humans after being pushed out of their own territories both from natural and manmade causes.
All this is to say: baboons, cute as they are, are a lot stronger than they let on. Thankfully the zoo acted fast, no bystanders were harmed, and hopefully appropriate measures will be taken to keep both the baboons and surrounding humans safe.