'Skirmish' leads to death as chimpanzee falls from tree in Kansas zoo

Kansas City Zoo staff have been left heartbroken after a 31-year-old chimpanzee died in a tragic accident.

Senior director Sean Putney said Bihati the chimp had been climbing a tree when a "skirmish" broke out.

He said skirmishes are a normal part of a chimp's day, but on Wednesday (local time) it ended in devastation.

Bihati was chased up a tree by another chimpanzee. He climbed up 12m and grabbed another branch to climb higher.

But the branch was dead. It snapped, sending Bihati plummeting, and he died.

Several zoo guests were at the exhibit at the time and witnessed the tragic death, including children.

The zoo has apologised for what they saw.

"We know that animals are born and animals die and everywhere in between, but we want people to be able to come out and experience the lighter side of the zoo and not have to deal with the tragedy," Mr Putney said.

The exhibit is around three acres, filled with trees and mimicking the environment the chimpanzees would normally be in.

Mr Putney said the group of 12 chimpanzees had been together since February and were getting along well.

Bihati will be buried on zoo property.