Zoo exhibit evacuated after angry gorilla cracks glass barrier

Atlanta, GA - (NBC) - How do you teach a gorilla to like his doctor? That's what officials at Zoo Atlanta are trying to do after a 360-pound gorilla slammed his fists into a barrier, cracking the glass and prompting the evacuation of a viewing area.

Zoo officials believe Taz, a 20-year-old silverback may have been agitated when he saw the doctor coming. Dr. Dwight Lawson, Zoo Atlanta's Senior Vice President of Collections, Education and Conversation said what Taz did was fairly typical.

"He did a species typical defensive display where he charges the threat and then basically banged on the glass and was able to put a crack in it," he said.

The target may have been Dr. Hayley Murphy, Director of Veterinary Services at the zoo.

"I think he had some memories from the day before and did a typical gorilla display which is kind of a bluff charge," she said.

Dr. Murphy gave Taz a full physical under anesthesia on Saturday. He said Taz backed up and then ran toward the Willie B. Conservation Center slamming his fists into the glass between the habitat and the viewing area.

Zoo patrons were immediately evacuated and the gorillas were moved out of their habitat.

"The glass held," said Dr. Lawson. "I mean it's actually three panes of glass fused together and the interior pane is the one that actually got a crack in it."

The glass is an inch and a half thick according to Dr. Lawson.

The day after the physical Dr. Murphy and other veterinarians entered the viewing area. That's when Taz became agitated.

"I had seen him looking for me when we came into the building," Dr. Murphy said. "He was very agitated and as soon as he spotted me he got very agitated."

Dr. Murphy thinks he was trying to put on a display for his family. She said her feelings aren't hurt.

"It's just like a child going to the pediatrician," she said. "We're not always the favorite people."

Zoo Atlanta officials said they hope to have the viewing center and habitat open by the end of the week.

The glass panels can be replaced, but can relationships?

"Since he was a little bit over emotional yesterday I decided to give him a break today," Dr. Murphy said. "I'll go in with some treats tomorrow and we'll talk and I'll be real calm."

Dr. Murphy said Taz just has to learn when the vet comes, it's not bad.

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