Days after the San Francisco Zoo's youngest gorilla was crushed to death by a door in her quarters, the San Francisco Zoo continues to refuse to answer questions, or to allow broadcast media to report from its grounds.
You already know the tragic story: nearly 16-month-old western lowland gorilla Kabibe "unexpectedly darted" beneath the hydraulic door as it was closing, and was fatally crushed by the mechanism.
On Monday, the Zoo released a written statement with a few more details of the events immediately following her death. The Zoo writes:
"Kabibe was initially removed from the enclosure and brought to the hospital. Her body was later brought back to the gorilla enclosure so that—as is customary with a primate death—she could be shown to the troop."
Bawang, Kabibe's grandmother and primary caregiver, "was allowed to touch and examine her," the Zoo writes.
According to the Zoo, Kabibe's troop "is showing normal signs of grief and loss and each gorilla is dealing with the death in its own way, according to their individual personalities....While Bawang showed initial signs of distress immediately following the accident—which included a specific calling-out behavior and loss of appetite—she has since returned to the outdoor gorilla enclosure and has begun to forage for treats such as applesauce, raisins, pumpkin puree, and sunflower seeds."
We'll have to take the Zoo's word on the gorilla's demeanor, however, as ABC7 reports that "A security guard was posted at the entrance to the zoo," preventing members of the media from entering the premises to report. Instead, ABC7 reporters bought tickets and entered as "regular" patrons, then reported using their smartphones.
According to ABC7, Zoo patrons have created a makeshift memorial of flowers at the entrance to the gorilla habitat, but say that they are worried by how non-communicative the Zoo has been with press.
"I was also concerned honestly that the zoo evidently shut things down for the press and journalists yesterday," one told ABC7.
Though the Zoo has released two written statements to media, they have not answered any questions or elaborated beyond their prepared remarks. "The SF Zoo will refrain from all other interviews and media visits at this time," was the last line in both statements sent to press.
One person who is speaking with the media is Dr. Terry Maple, a gorilla expert and former chairman of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums "best known for his visionary leadership in revitalizing the Atlanta Zoo after mismanagement and neglect culminated in the most publicized scandal in the history of American zoos," his biography reads.
According to the Zoo, they've engaged Maple to investigate Kabibe's death. By phone from Florida, Maple tells ABC that the door that killed Kabibe "has a mechanism around on it that is there to be operated in an emergency...The door can be stopped, and in this case it was not stopped in time to save this little gorilla."
As the Ex notes, it's still "not known if the door was equipped with an automatic shutoff sensor of the kind seen on common garage door openers."
ABC takes the question regarding the door a bit further, saying that Maple says the door in question is "a type of elevator door. A normal elevator, however, has a sensor that will make the doors open if something passes through as they're closing."
Maple confirms that the door was not malfunctioning, based on an investigation begun through phone and email from Florida. He will be arriving in San Francisco next week to pick up the inquiry in person.
Meanwhile, however, the Zoo community continues to mourn, posting on Facebook yesterday that "We would like to thank our friends—both locally and globally—for their heartfelt condolences. We have been overwhelmed with love and support during this difficult time, which speaks to how deeply Kabibe touched us all."
And the troop, including Bawang, continues to recover, the Zoo writes in a statement. Her "grandson Hasani, daughter Nneka, and lifelong companion Zura are staying close by her side and can be seen gently comforting her."
"Animal staff is hopeful that the gorilla family is processing the loss appropriately," the Zoo writes, "and will recover fully over time."