The team leader for primates at Hogle Zoo was attacked and bitten by Tino, a 450-pound male Western lowland gorilla, Thursday morning at the zoo.
Robert Pratt, who has worked at the zoo 33 years, suffered five puncture wounds on the upper part of his left arm and left torso and was knocked down, zoo officials said.Pratt was taken by ambulance to LDS Hospital. He was treated in the emergency room and released from the hospital early Thursday afternoon, said hospital spokesman Richard Nash.
Zoo Executive Director Craig Dinsmore said an examination and X-rays taken at the hospital showed that Pratt suffered no other serious injuries.
After returning to the zoo briefly, Pratt went home to recuperate. He deserves time off, said zoo marketing and development director Andrew Wallace.
A news release issued by the zoo said the incident occurred when Tino gained access to a basement holding area that Pratt was cleaning. Tino knocked Pratt to the ground and bit him. When the gorilla briefly entered a food preparation area, Pratt ran upstairs to notify staff. Moments later the animal returned to his holding area and was secured.
The zoo was not open at the time of the incident, and the gorilla could not have accessed any public areas. Zoo officials said a transfer gate that was left open allowed Tino to enter the holding area. . A gorilla's natural instinct is to attack when confronted or threatened, the zoo said.
Following the incident, the Great Apes Building was closed to reduce stress on the chimpanzees, orangutans and two other gorillas in the building. The building was again opened early Thursday afternoon, and Tino was in the outside gorilla yard.
"Bob and the gorilla should not have been in the same room together. The door was left open, so the gorilla was able to come into the area while Bob was cleaning," Dinsmore said. He said he does not know who left the door open.
Dinsmore said the gorilla is not a mean animal and was behaving in a normal manner as he perceived Pratt's presence as a threat to his territory.
"We are very relieved that Bob was not more seriously injured. We are very relieved that he will be OK and that the animal was contained. Our emergency procedures worked very well. The staff had the situation resolved within a few minutes. It was very much a team effort," Dinsmore said.
Dinsmore, who has been zoo director just five months, said he is not aware of any previous similar incident involving an attack by an animal at the zoo.
Tino first came to Hogle Zoo in 1986 on a breeding loan from the Milwaukee County Zoo as part of a Gorilla Species Survival Program. This summer the gorilla, which had been at the Bronx Zoo in New York for about two years, was transferred back to the Utah zoo to become a companion for Muke (pronounced Mookie), one of the zoo's female gorillas.