Five lions – four cubs and an adult – briefly escaped their enclosure at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, prompting authorities to rush overnight guests to safe areas and launch an investigation into the ‘significant’ breach of the law. security.
Zoo authorities discovered through video footage that one of the adult lions named Ato and four cubs were outside their enclosure early Wednesday, around 6:30 a.m. local time.
They immediately issued a “code one” alert, the most severe on the zoo’s emergency alert list. Other warnings are code red for fire, code orange for evacuation, and code blue for medical emergencies.
The five lions were, however, separated from the rest of the zoo by a six-foot fence, authorities said.
Police were called at 7 a.m., but two hours later authorities said the lions had returned to their enclosure.
A bear cub was tranquilized by zoo officials.
The zoo is investigating how the five lions escaped their enclosures and its authorities have called the security breach a “significant” incident.
There have been no reports of injuries or casualties among the animals, zoo staff and campers.
“The zoo has very strict safety protocols in place for such an incident and immediate action was taken,” said Simon Duffy, executive director of Taronga Zoo.
Taronga Zoo’s lion enclosure is home to Ato and Maya and their five cubs: Khari and Luzuko who are males, and Malika, Zuri and Ayanna who are females. Maya and Ayanna were in the compound while the others were free, according to reports.
Magnus Perri and his family of four were spending the night in a tent as part of the zoo’s “Roar and Snore” package, when a duress alarm sounded, ABC News reported. The zookeepers quickly led them to a toilet block.
Mr. Perri remembers being surprised by zoo staff. “They came running into the tent area saying there was a code one, get out of your tent, leave your stuff behind,” he said.
“They opened the door, everyone came in, they counted us, and they locked the door, and we stayed inside the building.”
He remained ignorant of what had happened. “The guides had their radios on, and we heard them, and they said, ‘they’re still outside,’ so we realized there was something out there, and they said it’s the lions, so we were like, ‘oh scary,'” he said.
Meanwhile, the zoo’s executive director, Mr Duffy, said the lions broke through one of two containment fences inside the enclosure. He also announced that in addition to the investigation into how the lions escaped from their enclosure, the lion exhibit will be closed until staff “ensure it is safe to 100%”.
“All animals are now safe in their exhibit at the back of the house and are closely monitored. I remind everyone that Taronga Zoo itself has its own security perimeter fence. So at no time did the lions come out of that area or Taronga Zoo,” he said.
The zoo will be open as normal today, Mr Duffy said, adding that further details will be shared when possible. Local media later reported that dozens of school groups and members of the public entered the zoo later Wednesday morning as usual.
NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb said: ‘It’s not very often that we get calls for lions on the loose, but there’s no doubt the police are called in for all sorts of things and the zoo obviously thought of calling us and we answered.”
The commissioner added that zoo officials handled the case without the help of the police.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the last time a ‘code one’ emergency was triggered at Taronga Zoo was when a chimpanzee escaped from its enclosure in 2021.
In 2009, a lioness called Jamelia at Mogo Zoo on the south coast of New South Wales was released due to “zookeeper error”.
The Independent Gt