A zoo in Sweden has come under fire for shooting three chimpanzees and injuring another after they escaped from their enclosure.
Furuvik Zoo said trying to tranquilize the animals instead of shooting them would have put people’s lives at risk.
Three other chimpanzees have still not been returned to safety in their enclosure.
The animals were well known in Sweden and their death caused anger.
Researcher Mathias Osvath, who had known them for several years, insisted they posed no real danger. “If I had met them in the park, my pulse would have increased but I wouldn’t have feared for my life. It’s a tragedy,” he told the BBC.
The incident began around noon (1100 GMT) on Wednesday when the chimpanzees emerged from their enclosure and began roaming freely around the zoo.
It is not known how they escaped.
The zoo is currently closed for the season, so members of the public were not present, but zoo officials said escaped animals were still a threat and staff had been evacuated or ordered to stay inside.
“Chimpanzees may be thought to be peaceful, but they are extremely dangerous. They are fast, very strong and generally fearless,” reads a statement from the company on Facebook.
Because of this, the zoo said it was forced to shoot the animals rather than put them to sleep using tranquilizer darts which can only be fired at close range.
“This, combined with the fact that it may take up to 10 minutes for anesthesia to appear, would pose a great danger to human safety,” the statement said.
But the decision to shoot the animals was widely criticized. A former keeper, who has worked with the animals for 30 years, has accused the zoo of acting unprofessionally.
“I think they panicked,” Ing-Marie Persson told public broadcaster SVT.
On Friday, the zoo confirmed the identities of two of the dead chimpanzees, Linda and Torsten. A third was also confirmed dead and another presumed dead – they were named Santino and Manda.
After years of researching chimpanzees, cognitive zoologists at Lund University have suspended cooperation with the zoo.
“I knew them personally, I would say. I kissed Manda, I kissed Linda and I had arm wrestles with Santino,” said Mathias Osvath, who pointed out that the chimpanzees had escaped from their locked up for many years. ago, when there were visitors inside the zoo.
Santino was well known beyond Sweden for his artistic talents and was said to have been a favorite of Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.