Blijdorp to reopen ape enclosure on Wednesday after Bokito’s death

The Blijdorp Zoo in Rotterdam is set to reopen its gorilla enclosure to the public on Wednesday morning. The enclosure has been shielded from public view after the zoo’s famous western lowland gorilla, Bokito, died unexpectedly on April 4. Bokito made headlines worldwide after he escaped from the enclosure in 2007, and attacked a woman who had frequently visited the zoo just to make eye contact with the gorilla.

Bokito died from heart failure at the age of 27 while under anesthesia. The underlying cause of heart failure is under investigation. The gorilla had been ill in the days leading up to his death.

Visitors to the zoo will again be able to enter the indoor area of the gorilla enclosure at some point on Wednesday, said zoo director Erik Zevenbergen during a broadcast of Goedemorgen Nederland on Tuesday. The outdoor area had still been accessible.

The other gorillas in the enclosure needed to become more accustomed to their changing circumstance after Bokito’s death. “The group has to get used to losing their leader. You can see that they are kind of confused, looking for a new balance,” Zevenbergen said.

Bokito was born at the Berlin Zoo on March 14, 1996, and he spent the past 18 years in Rotterdam as part of a European breeding program. The gorilla managed to escape his enclosure in Berlin when he was eight years old. Then, a year after his escape, he was sent to Rotterdam.

Bokito made headlines on May 18, 2007, when he escaped his enclosure during the Rotterdam zoo’s 150th anniversary. It started when children began throwing stones at the gorilla, the zoo said at the time. Bokito then lept across a moat and made it past a 7,000-volt electric fence.

He then grabbed a woman who frequently visited him and dragged her about 45 meters, before then crossing a cafe terrace and entering a restaurant. The woman was seriously injured, and three others in the restaurant were also hurt.

The Zoetermeer woman was accused of provoking Bokito and had been told to stop staring at him just days before the attack. “He is and will always be my favorite. Since he has been in Blijdorp, I have maintained contact with him. When I put my hand on the glass, he did the same. If I smiled at him, he smiled back,” she told the Telegraaf days after the incident.

Over time, Bokito developed socially, had ten offspring, and adopted a young male named Nasibu. “We see that the gorilla troop is very affected and that certainly also applies to the caretakers. Bokito was a very warm family man, whom we will miss very much together,” the zoo said last week.

Gorillas in captivity can live to be over 50 years of age, compared to about 40 years when in the wild, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.

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