The shepherd dog had wandered into the California safari park on its own, zoo officials told Newsweek. He got all the way into the gorilla habitat before anyone noticed.
Worried visitors captured the stray pup in videos sent to local news outlets and shared on social media. Spotting the dog next to a gorilla, they yelled in an attempt to distract the larger animal and coax the shepherd out.
A KUSI viewer was at the #SanDiegoZoo Safari Park today & sent this video of a dog that got inside the gorilla exhibit. Bystanders tried distracting the gorillas to coax the dog out. Staff eventually escorted people out of the area. We’ve reached out to officials for more info. pic.twitter.com/mzqwovTsdN
The San Diego Zoo told Newsweek, “Wildlife care specialists successfully recalled the two gorillas out of the habitat so the dog could be removed. Recall training is a part of the regular safety procedures at the Park.”
After zoo staff moved the gorillas out, three officers from the San Diego Humane Society went in to safely leash the dog and brought him back to their campus for evaluation. The male shepherd has no microchip.
Although gorillas are relatively calm animals—one was even seen petting a groundhog—they can become very aggressive and dangerous when they perceive a threat, according to conservation group Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe. They must be very slowly habituated to humans before accepting them as visitors. When people approach a group of gorillas, their leader has to be ‘informed’ so he is not surprised into responding aggressively.
In some zoos, trained dogs help raise wild animals. Rescue dog Remus became a companion to a cheetah at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in Ohio. Another dog named Coby socialized cheetahs, otters, warthogs and foxes at Ohio’s Columbus Zoo and Aquarium before he died in January.