The Great Escape always brings prisoner-of-war Steve McQueen to mind, but perhaps the real masters of breaking out are five lions who absconded from their enclosure at a Sydney zoo last month.
Taronga Zoo said on Thursday that new CCTV footage reveals how four cubs and an adult male escaped their enclosure by squeezing beneath a mesh wire fence. The lions were found outside their enclosure at about 6.30 a.m. local time on November 2.
Cubs Luzuko, Zuri, Khari and Malika were playing by the fence before one of them burrowed underneath it, the zoo said in a statement update. The other cubs and their father Ato followed, while lioness Maya and cub Ayanna stayed behind.
The zoo said the five lions “calmly investigated” and stayed within meters of their enclosure before making several attempts to get back in.
The zoo’s emergency response team arrived less than 10 minutes after the escape, with the situation under control “within minutes,” the statement said.
Luzuko was the first to re-enter the enclosure, followed by fellow cubs female Zuri and male Khari. Malika was tranquilized by the response team and transported back. After some encouragement, Ato was reunited with his pride.
Guests who were on site for the zoo’s “Roar and Snore” camping overnight experience when the escape happened were ordered to leave their tents immediately and “run” before finding sanctuary in a nearby building, CNN affiliate 9News reported.
Magnus Perri, whose tent was pitched near the lion enclosure, told 9News that Taronga Zoo staff came into the tent area saying: “‘This is a code one, get out of your tent and run, come now and leave your belongings.’”
The lions are currently in an outdoor back-of-house area pending the review’s completion, the zoo said, adding that they are unlikely to return to the main exhibit before Christmas.
While an initial review confirmed an “integrity issue” with the fence, Taronga Zoo has said their review into the escape was “ongoing.”
“An independent, specialist forensic engineer is still conducting detailed investigations on the failure and the complex mesh fencing system,” and also advising on necessary repairs, the statement said.