Five lions escape enclosure – Taronga zoo put into lockdown

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Code one issued at 6.30am and cub tranquillised before lions returned to their enclosure

By Mostafa Rachwani

Five lions broke out of their enclosure at Sydney’s Taronga zoo on Wednesday morning, forcing staff and visitors to hide in “safe zones”, and triggering a review of zoo safety.

The lions – four cubs and one adult – were seen outside their enclosure about 6.30am. A “code one” alert soon after sent the zoo into lockdown. Police were called at 7.10am and the lions returned to their enclosure just before 9am.
A code one is the zoo’s most urgent alert, requiring an emergency response.

Simon Duffy, Taronga’s executive director of operations, told reporters the lions were seen in a “small area adjacent to the main lion exhibit”.

“A six-foot fence separated them from the rest of the zoo,” he said. “The zoo has very strict safety protocols in place for such an incident and immediate action was taken.”

lions zoo
Taronga zoo staff at main entrance this morning. Photo courtesy: Dean Lewins/AAP

Duffy said one cub needed to be tranquillised but otherwise the lions “calmly made their way back” to their enclosure.

Taronga zoo staff at the main entrance this morning. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

“All animals are now safe in their back-of-house exhibit and are being closely monitored. I would remind everyone that Taronga zoo itself has its own safety perimeter fence.

“So at no time did the lions exit that area or exit Taronga zoo.”

Duffy confirmed a review of the incident was under way, with the exhibit to undergo further inspection to ensure it is “100% safe”. He did not make clear how the lions managed to breach their fence enclosure.

Though the zoo was not yet open for general visitors, some members of the public were staying in tents at the park’s overnight “roar and snore” experience, about 100 metres from the lion enclosure.

Police were called to the zoo as a precaution with no injuries reported. The zoo confirmed the area was safely secured shortly before 9am.

“An emergency situation occurred this morning at Taronga Zoo Sydney when five lions were located outside their enclosure,” the zoo said in a statement.

Aerial footage showed keepers patrolling the ground during the emergency.

“All persons on site were moved to safe zones and there are no injuries to guests or staff. All animals are now in their exhibit, where they are being closely monitored.”

The zoo, on Sydney’s lower north shore, confirmed it would be open on Wednesday.

“The zoo will be open as normal today. Further details will be provided when possible.”

School visits and tours were not expected to be affected by the incident.

The zoo escape comes nearly three years after a group of baboons escaped a research facility near Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred hospital.

Animal escapes are rare at Taronga, but keepers are reportedly ready for such events with a plan of action involving anaesthetic dart guns and nets.

Courtesy: Guardian News & Media Ltd. To read full text of this edited version, click here.

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Photograph Courtesy: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images
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