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10 weirdest zoo animal escapes

By Ryan Broderick and Sarah LeTrent, BuzzFeed/CNN
updated 4:51 PM EDT, Tue June 25, 2013
  • Rusty the red panda was found yesterday after a brief escape from the National Zoo
  • Rusty joins an elite group of crafty animals that eluded captivity
  • A Bronx Zoo cobra's escape in 2011 captivated social media outlets
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Editor's note: This post was created for your reading pleasure as a collaborative effort between the editorial staffs of BuzzFeed and CNN.

(BuzzFeed/CNN) -- Rusty the red panda is the most recent zoo animal to prove it truly is a jungle out there. On Monday, the National Zoo in Washington announced that little Rusty had gone missing.

Thankfully, by the end of the day, he was back in his enclosure and no longer wandering around the big city unchaperoned. Rusty's adventurous day in D.C. is, obviously, not the first nor the strangest story of an escaped animal running amok.

Don't worry, though, all these have relatively happy endings!

1) Evelyn and Jim: The gorillas that escaped, more than once, from the Los Angeles Zoo.

These two gorillas were a pretty big headache for the zookeepers at the Los Angeles Zoo. The primates in crime escaped so many times that the zoo received a warning from federal officials, according to ABC News. The zookeepers were housing them in an enclosure originally intended for bears; the gorillas would use vines to climb out, even one time bounding the wall with a running jump.

2) Nala: The lioness that escaped into Disney's backyard.

In the late '90s, a 450-pound lioness named Nala -- after a character in Disney's "The Lion King" -- escaped from Kissimmee's JungleLand Zoo when handlers were cleaning her cage. The declawed lion prowled the area, much to the chagrin of residents. Thankfully, no one was hurt. After a few days on the loose, Nala was found by a search team and returned to her pen.

3) Virginia: The wolf that escaped from the Los Angeles Zoo and may or may not have been recaptured.

The story of Virginia the wolf is one of the stranger ones. The timber wolf escaped from her enclosure three times in the 1970s before she finally got out for good. It's unclear, however, what happened to the antsy wolf after that.

4) The 170+ Rhesus monkeys that took over Long Island in the 1930s.

Rhesus monkey
More than 170 rhesus monkeys, like this one, escaped from Frank Buck's jungle camp in Long Island in 1935.
Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images

This kooky incident happened at an old-timey exotic animal park run by famous animal collector Frank Buck. According to the original 1935 New York Times article, the monkeys' area was left open one night, they got out and went bananas in a neighboring town. Local law enforcement realized something was up when they started getting more than a few phone calls reporting monkeys crawling around people's houses. Buck's jungle camp even offered a season pass to any resident who returned a monkey.

5) Ken Allen: The "Hairy Houdini" of the San Diego Zoo.

Ken Allen is easily the San Diego Zoo's most famous -- and successful -- simian escape artist. He became famous in the '80s for his numerous, daring escapes. He even taught another orangutan how to use a branch the way a human uses a crowbar to bust out of their enclosure. In 2000, Ken was euthanized in captivity after being sick with cancer. He was 29. The LA Times wrote an obituary for the beloved orangutan. "With the solemnity usually reserved for the passing of revered civic leaders, San Diego Zoo officials on Friday announced the death of Ken Allen, an escape-artist orangutan so beloved that he had his own fan club," wrote Tony Perry, a Times staff writer.

6) Nikica: The hippopotamus that wouldn't stay put.

Nikica the escaped hippo
Nikica, a two-ton hippopotamus, swims through flood waters in Montenegro.
AFP/Getty Images

It's pretty tough to tell hippopotamuses what to do. They're very large and don't exactly take direction. That's what one village in Montenegro learned firsthand. In 2010, after some flooding in the area, Nikica escaped her pen and made her way into a body of water in the nearby village of Plavnica. The villagers didn't mind Nikica swimming around their homes, though, and she ended up being a pretty popular celebrity in the area. She was eventually brought home after floodwaters receded.

7) The nine bison that ran loose in Oakland only to be coaxed back into their enclosure with bread.

In 1997, nine half-ton bison made a break for it from the Oakland Zoo. The herd didn't get very far, about 200 feet from the zoo grounds to be exact. The zookeepers lured the roaming bison back with pieces of bread.

8) Satara: The rhino that ran away from home after his mate left him for a younger rhino.

It seems like rhinoceroses can go on jealous rampages, too. According to South Australia's The Advertiser, Satara was a two-ton rhinoceros that threw a jealous tantrum inside the Monarto Zoo near Adelaide. The 18-year-old male escaped his enclosure and ventured into another section of the zoo where other rhinos were held before wandering back into his pen. The zookeepers figured it was because of Satara's mate Yhura pairing up with a younger rhino. Scandalous.

9) The penguin that escaped a Japanese aquarium.

Escaped penguin in Tokyo
This picture released by Tokyo Sea Life Park on March 5, 2012, shows the escaped penguin swimming in a river in Tokyo.
AFP/Getty Images

Last year, a Humboldt penguin escaped from Tokyo Sea Life Park and spent a whopping three months waddling around the city. The 1-year-old fugitive was recaptured after being spotted multiple times swimming around Tokyo Bay. The penguin came back to the aquarium in good condition, apparently fit for big city life.

10) And of course, the clever Bronx Zoo cobra.

In March 2011, an Egyptian cobra slithered away from the Bronx Zoo's World Of Reptiles -- and into the hearts of Twitter users. After a few days of searching, zoo officials found that the elusive snake hadn't gotten very far; she was hiding among pipes in a holding area in the zoo's reptile house. They lured the cobra out using rodent-scented wood shavings.

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