CHESTER Zoo went ape on Sunday when 30 cheeky chimpanzees escaped their enclosure.
About 5,000 visitors were forced to take cover in restaurants, shops and other animal enclosures as the chimpanzees made their break for freedom at about 12.40pm.
Following the ape escape, a red alert was raised and throngs of animal enthusiasts were herded from the site.
Zoo director general Gordon McGregor- Reid said: “Somehow or other they got into the kitchen, it must have been the smell of the bananas or something like that.
“It was a bit like an old-fashioned chimps’ tea party.”
Chester Zoo media manager Rachael Ashton said: “An investigation is under way into how the chimpanzees got into the keepers’ kitchen. The alarm was raised at about 12.40pm and they were back on the island by 4pm.
“We don’t know how much it has cost, our priority isn’t to sit and count the beans and I would be very reluctant to put a figure on it because we don’t have one.”
Keepers kept their cool and returned the rampaging animals using a combination of treats and noise.
Dozens of visitors queued for refunds and staff handed out bottles of water.
One visitor said: “We were just having lunch and we were told to go into the restaurants and shops – we stayed there for about 45 minutes.”
Another said: “The communication was appalling, they didn’t tell us anything. We had just walked through the front gates and they told us to go into the shop. It was ridiculous.”
Chester Zoo is offering a free visit to anyone whose day was disrupted. For more information, ring 01244 650240.