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Eye Contact May Have Made the Gorilla Mad: Rotterdam Zoo
    2007-05-22 04:14:28     Xinhua

The woman who was seriously injured by a gorilla in the Rotterdam zoo last Friday may had inadvertently caused the unfortunate drama by making eye contact with the animal,Dutch media reported Monday.

Video footage showed the woman trying to make eye contact with the gorilla through a glass wall at the gorilla habitat. The gorilla probably perceived the eye contact as a threatening gesture and became aggressive as a result, a spokesperson for the zoo was quoted as saying.

Four people were injured after the 400-pound male gorilla, named Bokito, jumped over a moat of almost four meters and escaped from his habitat. The gorilla bit the woman more than 100 times and dragged her for several meters.

At that time the zoo was busy with several thousand visitors and the incident caused major panic. Before the silverback gorilla was sedated and re-captured, three other zoo visitors were also injured in the panic.

The woman is in hospital with broken bones and bite wounds. 

The woman's husband confirmed in Dutch paper Algemeen Dagblad Monday that several days before the attack, the animal's caretaker had advised his wife to keep distance from the gorilla habitat and not to try to make eye contact.

The woman and her husband visit the gorilla at least four times a week. The woman claims to have a special bond with the animal. In an interview with newspaper De Telegraaf, she said: "If I laugh at him, he laughs back."

But the zoo's director Ton Dorresteijn said she's got it wrong. "A gorilla never laughs, curling his upper lip is a threat," he said.

The victim's husband told Algemeen Dagblad that the couple plan to sue the zoo. "My wife will need care for a long time. Someone is going to have to pay for that," he said.

The man also thinks that the waterway around the gorilla habitat should have been widened.

A Rotterdam lawyer said the zoo is responsible for the woman's injuries as security measures were inadequate, Dutch daily Trouw reported. If the zoo's director is charged and convicted, he could face a maximum six-month prison sentence, the paper said.

The employees of the zoo have met on Monday to discuss the situation. The zoo will announce what measures will be taken regarding Bokito at a press conference on Wednesday, a spokesperson said.

The zoo is considering putting up signs to warn people against trying to make eye contact with the apes.

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