An ‘integrity issue’ with a containment fence allowed five lions to escape their enclosure, forcing dozens of terrified overnight zoo guests to flee their accommodation.
Sydney’s Taronga Zoo went into lockdown early Wednesday after male lion Ato and cubs Khari, Luzuko, Malike and Zuri escaped their enclosure and triggered an emergency response.
The lions were found and safely returned to their enclosure before the zoo opened to the public for the day.
A section of fencing and ‘dig marks’ in the lions’ Savannah enclosure is now the focus of an investigation launched by Taronga Zoo.
The lions have been cordoned off from the area where they made their brazen escape.
“The lions are now in an area behind the house while a full review continues,” a zoo statement read Monday evening.
Taronga Zoo staff and police are inspecting an “integrity issue” with a fence that allowed five lions to escape their enclosure on Wednesday morning
‘A full report will now be prepared for the NSW Department of Primary Industries.
“Keepers and vets report that all lions are doing well.”
Roar and Snore guests were locked inside (above) for 90 minutes this morning after being told to flee their tents and leave behind belongings when the five lions escaped after breaching a containment fence
One cub had to be tranquilized by vets, while the other escapees were returned to their enclosure without problems.
Magnus and Dominique Perri and their young sons Lucas and Oliver were staying in Taronga’s Roar and Snore tents when they were woken by the sound of lions roaring and growling at around 4am on Wednesday.
When the sounds of the animals were promoted as an important part of the experience, Mr Perri said the family quickly fell back asleep, believing the lions were safely locked in their enclosure just yards away.
“It just happened so fast,” Mr Perri said.
Sydney couple Magnus and Dominique Perri and their young sons Lucas and Oliver (above) were living in Taronga’s Roar and Snore when they were told they had 30 seconds to ‘get out’ after a lion escaped
‘They said ‘Hurry up! Don’t worry about your stuff. This is a Code One. Get out of your tent. Leave your belongings behind. You have 30 seconds to get out’.’
‘People were running out.’
Sir. Perri said the family was escorted out, along with about 50 other Roar and Snore overnighters, to a safe location for the next 90 minutes.
He also said he heard keepers shouting “they’re still outside” until four of the lions returned to the enclosure and a tranquilizer gun was used to recapture the one that didn’t.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Taronga Zoo chief executive Simon Duffy confirmed that an adult lion and four cubs had escaped at 6.30am.
“The lions were observed in a small area next to the main lion exhibit, where a six-foot fence separated them from the rest of the zoo,” he said.
The five escaped lions triggered a Code One alert but were back in their enclosure a few hours later (pictured, Taronga lions)
“The zoo has very strict safety protocols in place for such an incident and immediate action was taken … Four of the lions calmly went back to their main exhibit and dens and one lion cub was safely sedated.
‘All animals are now safe in their rear exhibit and are being closely monitored.’
He added that video footage showed the incident was under control within 10 minutes at 6.50am.
“This is a significant incident and a full review is now underway to confirm exactly how the lions were able to put on their main display,” Mr Duffy said.
The Code One alert is reserved when a ‘dangerous animal’ has escaped or is causing an alarming situation and orders staff to immediately shut down in a ‘safe haven’.
Four lions escaped their enclosure at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo (pictured police seen at the fence near the lion viewing area)
Taronga Zoo opened to the public as usual on Wednesday, but the lions were not on display.
NSW Police attended the scene but said the zoo was ‘managing the situation on its own’.
Visitors from Gloucestershire, UK, Kirsty, Stuart and Isabelle McLaren arrived at Taronga after it reopened at
“We’re just here to see the koalas,” said Kirsty.
The lions escaped their enclosure – not far from the zoo’s ferry terminal – before the tourist attraction opened its gates for the day, meaning only workers were present.
The chimpanzee, giraffe and zebra exhibits are also just a few meters from the lion enclosure.
TIMELINE OF THE TARONGA ZOO LION ESCAPE
04:00: A family living in the Roar and Snore tents near the lion enclosure is awakened by ‘roars’.
6.30: Lions escape their enclosure.
6.40: The Code One lockdown alarm sounds at the zoo and all staff, apart from lion keepers, are ordered to hide in ‘safe havens’. Roar and Snore guests, about 50, are being evacuated from their tents and moved to a safe area.
6.50: Zookeepers manage the situation and move the five lions back to their enclosure.
8:00 a.m.: Roar and Snore guests are allowed to return to their rooms.
8.28: 2GB Sydney radio host Ben Fordham breaks the news that Taronga Zoo is closed after four lions escape.
8.52: Taronga Zoo releases a statement confirming the incident, which says five lions escaped but are back in their enclosures.
It said: ‘An emergency arose this morning at Taronga Zoo when five lions were located outside their enclosure.
“The zoo has strict safety protocols in place for such an incident. 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 and are being closely monitored by zoo staff. The zoo is open as usual today. Further details will be provided when possible.’
10.30am: Zoo officials confirm the escape was caused by a breach in the Savannah enclosure.