An endangered gibbon made a brief break for freedom in the urban jungle of Mid-Levels yesterday after escaping from the city's oldest zoo. The 10-year-old buff-cheeked gibbon sneaked out of the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens in Central at about 10.45am as its cage was being cleaned and headed for the hills. Over the next half hour, it was spotted at the busy junction of Robinson Road and Old Peak Road, Hollywood Heights and at 6 Old Peak Road before entering the car park at Villa Elegance in Robinson Road, where it hid under a vehicle. A veterinarian from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which manages the zoo, and officers from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department were called to recapture the animal. They first tried to lure it with bananas but in the end a veterinarian shot it with a tranquiliser dart at 12.45 pm. Despite being hit the gibbon still managed to climb up a nearby bamboo scaffolding before it fell unconscious and dropped to the ground. The gibbon was wrapped in a towel and placed in a portable cage. It was returned to its enclosure at the zoo later in the afternoon and was said to be in healthy condition. A spokesman for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said they were still investigating how the animal escaped. A visit to the facility in Central revealed that the animal had to get through at least two doors to flee the cage. Native to forests in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, the gibbon's wild population is estimated to have declined by 50 per cent in the last 45 years due to habitat destruction. International trade of this species is strictly prohibited. The 140-year-old zoo in Central has about 400 birds, 70 mammals and 50 reptiles in its 40 enclosures.