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At zoo, a gorilla in their midst

Visitors at the Dutch park fled in a panic as a 400-pound ape ran loose. Four were hurt.

AMSTERDAM - A 400-pound gorilla escaped from his enclosure and ran amok in a Rotterdam zoo yesterday, biting one woman, dragging her around, and causing panic among dozens of visitors before he was finally subdued, officials and a witness said.

The Diergaarde Blijdorp zoo was evacuated and the 11-year-old gorilla, named Bokito, was eventually contained in a restaurant within the park, police spokeswoman Yvette de Rave said.

Four people were injured, including the woman who was bitten, zoo director Ton Dorrestijn said.

Bokito was shot with a sedative dart and recaptured, zoo spokeswoman Lilian Jonkers said.

The animal's enclosure is surrounded by a high stone wall and water-filled moat, but it was not immediately clear how he managed to escape.

"He got over the moat, which in itself is remarkable because gorillas can't swim," Dorrestijn said. "He got onto a path for visitors and started running and went at full speed through tables and diners at the Oranje restaurant."

A witness, Robert de Jonge, told NOS radio that he did not see the gorilla escape but began following it after he saw people running and screaming that the animal had grabbed a woman.

"I saw the beast running through the park with a woman behind him, him grabbing her forearm," de Jonge said.

At a distance of about 30 yards, he saw the gorilla lie down near the woman and then heard her scream.

"He bit her, or I think he bit her," de Jonge said, "because when he stood up, his mouth was covered in blood."

"Everyone was in panic, running away, screaming, wailing," de Jonge said. ". . . It was a total drama."

Children cowered in their parents' arms as the gorilla loped past.

People tried to hide inside a zoo restaurant and were trying to bar the door but fled as the gorilla approached, de Jonge said. Bokito then punched through the glass door and ran inside.

"They were all in panic," de Jonge said. "The animal, too, I mean - and all the people ran outside the restaurant, and zoo personnel were running up and they were able to keep the animal inside by barricading the doors with garden furniture and things."

De Jonge said he later saw the woman "covered in blood" but walking unaided.