Following yesterday’s incident at the Fuerteventura Oasis Park, the management have issued a statement intent on explaining the circumstances surrounding both what happened, and the history of the park and chimpanzees.
Firstly, the surviving chimp, Cheeta, is recovering well from surgery and the three humans are also stable and well.
The park explained that “Yesterday, June 26, was the saddest day in the history of Fuerteventura Oasis Park since it opened its doors in 1985”.
The statement continues to explain how human error cost the lives of two members of our family of chimpanzees, King and Felipa, and wounded three people working at the park.
King and Cheeta were welcomed by the park family as two orphaned babies after being confiscated by the environmental protection service of the Guardia Civil, SEPRONA, from a street photographer who used them in creating typical images which were popular with tourists in the late 80´s.
Felipa, the third member of the family of chimpanzees, was 22 years of age and was seized by SEPRONA as a victim of the illegal trafficking of animals. Felipa was integrated into the social group in the 90´s, with King and Cheeta.
The primate family were cared for by the human family owners of the zoo, who witnessed every stage of their lives whilst providing the best possible conditions and quality of life, resulting in a special family bond and affection between the chimps and human team at the park.
The park wanted to stress the importance of letting people know that many of the species that are taken from their natural habitat and lived in captivity are unable to return to the wild as they are unable to survive, as has been proven by many failed attempts in the past. In the case of chimpanzees, many of reintroduction attempts have failed and therefore for them to remain in the care of zoos like this is the best solution to provide care and the necessary power to provide the best life possible, and this has been the mission of Oasis Park Fuerteventura from their arrival.
The park point out that “this park has become more than a zoo, it is a centre for rescue and rehabilitation of animals from illegal trafficking and possession of animals in inadequate management conditions”.
It is because of the bond built over time that “the loss of our children”, Felipa and King has resulted in “excruciating pain” as the park staff were unable to save them, despite using tranquilizer darts and attempts to return them to their enclosure. Once the security breach was identified, the established protocol was initiated and the park owners fearlessly tried on several occasions to lead the animals back.
However, having been unsuccessful, the park team had “exceeded the timeout granted by the authorities and considering that there were human lives at risk, the security forces activated their actions that resulted in the loss of King and Felipa, the only male and female members of the family of chimpanzees. SEPRONA Civil Protection and acted according to established protocols, being respectful in our actions and in their own right”.
As for the humans who were injured in the escape, one worker was airlifted to Las Palmas and underwent plastic surgery and is out of danger. Two of the three owners of the zoo are recovering from minor physical injuries sustained.
The mental injuries and the loss felt by the park staff is a different matter, as it is clear that they are and will continue to suffer the loss of the two animals for some time to come. The support the park has received on their Facebook page is also overwhelming, as has been the response that the park has given to those who have shared in their grief.
The park´s official statement expresses their “sincere words of support to the family of the worker concerned”, as well as the visitors to the park and the team who dealt with the situation. The park is now working to get back to normal, despite the tragedy of this weekend.