Guest had physical contact with orangutan that escaped, zoo says

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The orangutan, Tao, arrived at the Sedgwick County Zoo in September 2016. The orangutan, Tao, arrived at the Sedgwick County Zoo in September 2016.
WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

KAKE News got the chance to speak with the couple who reported the loose orangutan.

Matthew and Tara Crippen were outside the orangutan exhibit when they saw the 11 year-old orangutan,Tao, hanging onto bamboo swaying back in forth.

"We ran real quick and told some of the people who were hanging up Halloween decorations and told them there was an orangutan that had escaped."

Once the staff was aware Tao was out of her habitat they issued "Code 100." This is the process of getting all zoo guests into safe areas until the loose animal is contained. 

Some people were escorted into bathrooms, others were told get inside buildings. 

Jean and Pat Hlatik waited in a building for 20 minutes until they were told everything was under control. During that time Pat Hlatik says she never felt in danger and the zoo staff seemed to have everything under control.

"I didn't feel any danger, I wondered what was going on, but he acted like he was in control and he knew what to do and he was protecting us, and he was very concerned about the people coming in. and he put us in there to be protected."

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An official with the Sedgwick County Zoo says a guest had physical contact with an orangutan that escaped from its enclosure Tuesday morning. 

Melissa Graham, the zoo's marketing manager, says the zoo verified the report after interviewing staff and guests. 

"The zoo guest stated that she never felt that she was in danger or in any way threatened by the orangutan," Graham said, adding that the guest wished to remain anonymous.

Further details about the reported contact were not provided. The investigation into the circumstances of the escape is ongoing.


Previous story:

The Sedgwick County Zoo was locked down after an orangutan escaped its enclosure Tuesday morning. 

A dispatcher confirmed the report made at around 10 a.m. A zoo official said the 11-year-old Sumatran orangutan named Tao appears to have unwoven the mesh enough to slip through the hole and escape into a public area. She went through some of the bamboo that surrounds the exhibit and got to a guest walking path.

Tara and Matthew Crippen encountered the orangutan and alerted zoo officials. 

"Just standing there, holding onto some of the stuff, kind of swaying... that's definitely not a statue," Tara said. "They put us in a bathroom and we had to wait for them to tell us it was all clear."

Tao went back into the enclosure on her own, and all orangutans were secured indoors within 11 minutes.  The exhibit will remain closed until further notice while it is evaluated and secured.

No injuries were reported. 

On March 18, 2005, a colobus monkey named Alley escaped from its cage at the Sedgwick County Zoo. The monkey found a small hole in the roof of the netting surrounding her outdoor area. The animal was quickly spotted by zoo staff who tried to coax her back in.  The monkey was tranquilized before being returned to its habitat.  

In August of 1996 at the zoo, two orangutans got through their mesh cage. One quickly returned, and the other reentered the exhibit through a door soon after. 

No one was hurt in either incident. 

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