Veteran naturalist Sir David Attenborough says zoos should give gorillas more privacy from visitors by replacing glass panels with peepholes.

The 90-year-old British television presenter was speaking less than a week after a gorilla briefly escaped from its enclosure in London Zoo, an incident which Attenborough described as "hardly surprising" when animals are sometimes harassed by visitors.

The broadcaster, who has presented nature programmes for more than half a century, said while he accepted the role zoos play in preserving endangered species, more should be done to improve the behaviour of visitors.

"They are wonderful animals, gorillas. They are animals which guard their privacy," he told ITV television.

"In the forests of west Africa, they don't live out in the open. They aren't stared at by people."

He continued: "If the people were respectful, that would be something but sometimes visitors to zoos are not respectful and they start shrieking or waving their arms in order to get the poor gorilla to do something.

"There's a lot to be said for zoos but they have to bare in mind the sensitivity of the animals. A gorilla is not like a fish. A gorilla is closely related to us – it has feelings, it can get stressed easily, and they do, and we have to pay attention to that.

"Maybe the solution is that people should not be allowed to be behind big sheets of glass but be looking through peepholes at the gorilla so the gorilla doesn't realise."

It comes after a western lowland silverback gorilla, called Kumbuka, escaped from his enclosure at London Zoo into the park's secure keepers' area on Thursday (13 October) after a door was left open.

Witnesses say they saw the 29-stone (184kg) animal acting "really angry" moments before the escape and had been banging on the window.

The ape, which the zoo confirmed had broken panes of glass at the enclosure on two previous occasions, was recaptured less then three hours later after being shot with a tranquiliser gun.

A spokesman for the zoo said that at no time were members of the public in danger.