A chimpanzee in Ukraine enjoyed about two hours of freedom after escaping from the Kharkiv Zoo earlier this week before she was coaxed into returning to the zoo atop a zookeeper’s bicycle.
The 10-year-old chimpanzee, Chichi, roamed through a park and the streets near the central city square in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, before she was found unharmed by a primate keeper from the zoo.
Video of the episode shows the employee, Victoria Kozyreva, sitting with Chichi and unsuccessfully trying to persuade her to return to the zoo with members of the zoo’s staff. But later, when it started to rain, Chichi ran back to Ms. Kozyreva, who covered the animal in her own jacket before the two embraced.
Chichi was then wheeled back to the Kharkiv Zoo, perched on a zookeeper’s bicycle. Oleksiy Grigoriev, the zoo’s director, confirmed to the Ukrainian public broadcaster, Suspilne, that the chimpanzee had been returned safely to her enclosure.
How the animal escaped remained unclear.
Several videos of the efforts to corral Chichi were shared widely on social media, offering a Ukrainian city that has faced unrelenting bombardment by Russian forces a rare moment of levity.
Over the past six months, Kharkiv has endured a nearly constant stream of incoming artillery. Early in the war, Russian forces tried to surround and capture the city, but were eventually forced back by the Ukrainians.
Chichi, whom a Zoo spokesman said was known for her warm and friendly nature, has also overcome great odds. On the first day of the Russian invasion, she was evacuated from Feldman Ecopark, an outdoor zoo in an area of northern Kharkiv that has been under constant threat since February.
According to the zoo spokesman, Vadym Vorotynskyi, all of the animals from Feldman Ecopark have been relocated, many of them to the Ukrainian cities of Poltava, Dnipro, Lviv and Odesa. But shelling during the evacuation effort killed around 100 animals, including two orangutans, a chimpanzee, two bison, a large number of big cats and countless birds.
The zoo’s owner, Oleksandr Feldman, has told reporters that at least six people who volunteered to help with the evacuation of the animals from Feldman Ecopark were killed.
But even after being moved, Chichi and the other animals at the Kharkiv Zoo remain in danger and susceptible to stress from the noise of air raid sirens and artillery fire, which remains a constant threat.
Senior Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday that three civilians had been killed by Russian rocket attacks outside Kharkiv. Separately, another rocket badly damaged a mostly vacant apartment building near the city center.