The mystery of how five sneaky lions managed to escape their enclosure at Taronga Zoo has been solved after new CCTV footage captured the exact moment they broke free.
The vision showed lion cubs Luzuko, Zuri, Khari and Malika and adult male Ato prowling around the perimeter of the fence around 6:30 a.m. Nov. 2.
One of the cubs managed to squeeze through a small gap in the metal fence and was quickly followed by the other lions, leading to a ‘code one’ emergency.
A code one alarm sounds throughout the zoo when an animal that can kill humans has escaped.
The dramatic footage shows the escapees walking along the perimeter of their enclosure as a van and ute follow the lions at a leisurely pace.
One of the cubs squeezed through a small gap in the metal fence and was quickly followed by the other lions, leading to a ‘code one’ emergency (pictured)
In the dramatic vision, the lions make their way through the outside of their enclosure as zoo staff drive a van and follow them at a leisurely pace (pictured)
The lions, who stayed within meters of the enclosure, eventually found their way back inside after being recalled by lioness Maya and zoo keepers.
Luzuko was the first cub to return and was quickly followed by female cub Zuri and male cub Khari – with Malika being sedated by the zoo’s emergency response team.
Ato, the adult lion, was the last to return to the enclosure.
Malika was later returned to the den by keepers who were able to secure the lions before the tourist attraction opened for the day.
The zoo’s ongoing evaluation showed that the lions “played” with the fence for about 20 minutes before breaching it.
At 6:40 a.m., an alarm was raised after the lions squeezed through the hole and the zoo was locked down.
Officials said the clamps used to connect wire cables together ‘failed’, causing a cable to come loose and create a hole in the fence for the lions to wriggle through.
The zoo’s investigation into the escape from the enclosure, which is still ongoing, has recommended a ‘tensile strength engineer’ conduct an investigation and provide specialist advice on the fence (pictured, police seen at the fence at the lookout point for lions)
“Preliminary independent technical advice has confirmed that butting (clamps that connect wire ropes together) have failed, allowing a lacing rope connecting the mesh to a tension rope to unravel,” a statement said.
“The lions were then able to create and penetrate a hole.”
Families camping overnight in a building close to the perimeter fence as part of the Roar and Snore experience were directed to a safe area by Taronga Zoo staff.
“They came running into the tent area and said, ‘This is a code one, get out of your tent and run, now come and leave your stuff,'” guest Magnus Perri said.
“They came running into the tent area saying, ‘This is a code one, get out of your tent and run, now come and leave your stuff,'” said guest Magnus Perri (pictured with his family)
The zoo explained in a statement that the clamps used to connect wire ropes together “failed,” resulting in a lace rope coming loose and causing a small gap in the fence (pictured)
“We had to run like 50 to 70 meters before they opened the door, everybody got in, they counted us and they locked the door and we stayed in.”
Taronga Zoo director Simon Duffy assured visitors that the lions had been returned to their habitat by 9 a.m. without any injuries to guests or staff.
Because the lions escaped from their enclosure before the zoo opened its gates that day, there were only workers around besides the families who were camping.
Taronga Zoo said the investigation into the sneaky escape is ongoing and an “independent specialist forensic engineer is still conducting detailed investigations into the disturbance and the complex fencing system.”
The zoo said the lions “will remain in an outdoor enclosure behind the house pending specialist technical advice” and are unlikely to return to their main exhibit before Christmas.
The lions were ‘playing and interacting’ with the fence for 20 minutes before breaching it, which set off an alarm and locked the zoo
TIMELINE OF THE TARONGA ZOO LION’S ESCAPE
4 hours: A family staying in the roar and snore tents at the lion enclosure is awakened by ‘roar’.
6:30 am: Lions escape from their enclosure.
6:40 am: At the zoo, the Code One lockdown alarm goes off and all staff, except the lion keepers, are ordered to hide in ‘safe havens’. Roar and Snore guests, about 50, are evacuated from their tents and taken to a safe place.
6:50 am: Zookeepers control the situation and return the five lions to their enclosure.
8 AM: Roar and Snore guests are allowed back into their rooms.
8:28 am: 2GB Sydney radio presenter Ben Fordham breaks the news Taronga Zoo is in lockdown following the escape of four lions.
8:52 am: Taronga Zoo issues a statement confirming the incident, saying five lions have escaped but are back in their enclosures.
It said: ‘An emergency occurred at Taronga Zoo this morning when five lions were outside their enclosure.
“The zoo has strict safety protocols for such an incident. All persons on site have been transferred to safe zones and there are no injuries to guests or staff.
“All the animals are now in their exhibits and are being closely watched by zoo staff. Today the zoo will open normally. Further details will be provided when possible.’
10.30 am: Zoo officials confirm that the escape was caused by a breach in the Savannah enclosure fence.