Taronga Zoo lion escape: Sydney zoo reveals the way five lions managed to get out of their enclosure


Clever way five lions escaped their enclosure at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo is revealed – as investigators probe how close they came to nearby campers

  • Five lions escaped their enclosure at Taronga Zoo in Sydney last Wednesday
  • It’s been revealed the lions were able to squeeze through a gap in the fence
  • The zoo said faulty clamps caused a cable to unravel which created the gap
  • All of the lions were safely returned to their enclosure by Taronga Zoo staff

Taronga Zoo has finally revealed that a small gap in a fence was responsible for five lions sneakily escaping their enclosure last week. 

The Sydney zoo went into lockdown last Wednesday when male lion Ato and 16-month-old cubs Khari, Luzuko, Malike and Zuri got out of their enclosure, sparking a panicked emergency response. 

The lions were found in an area adjacent to the main exhibit and were safely returned to their exhibit before the zoo opened to the public for the day. 

Officials explained in a statement on Thursday afternoon that clamps used to join wire cables together had ‘failed’ which led to a cable to unravel and create a gap in the fence.

Taronga Zoo has revealed that a small gap in a fence enabled five lions to escape their enclosure last Wednesday (pictured, male lion Ato at the zoo)

The zoo explained in a statement that clamps used to join wire cables together had 'failed' which led to a lacing cable to unravel and create a small gap in the fence (pictured)

The zoo explained in a statement that clamps used to join wire cables together had ‘failed’ which led to a lacing cable to unravel and create a small gap in the fence (pictured)

‘Preliminary independent engineering advice has confirmed that swages (clamps that join wire cables together) failed, enabling a lacing cable that connects the fence mesh to a tension cable to unravel,’ the statement read.

‘The lions were then able to create and squeeze through a gap.’

The zoo’s ongoing review into the incident discovered that the lions had been ‘playing and interacting’ with the fence for around 20 minutes before it was breached.

Adult male lion Ato led four cubs out of the enclosure while ‘lioness Maya and one cub chose to remain in the exhibit’.

The pair were later called back into their dens by keepers.

An alarm was sounded at 6:40am after the lions squeezed through the gap and the zoo went into lockdown.     

Two of the cubs then breached a secondary fence. 

The lions had been 'playing and interacting' with the fence for 20 minutes before they breached it, which sounded an alarm and put the zoo into lockdown

The lions had been ‘playing and interacting’ with the fence for 20 minutes before they breached it, which sounded an alarm and put the zoo into lockdown

Male lion Ato led four cubs through the gap in the fence. Two of the cubs then breached a secondary fence. All of the lions were safely returned to their exhibit by staff (stock image)

Male lion Ato led four cubs through the gap in the fence. Two of the cubs then breached a secondary fence. All of the lions were safely returned to their exhibit by staff (stock image) 

Families who were camped overnight in a building close to the lion enclosure were led to a safe area by Taronga Zoo staff.

Other staff members used vehicles to ‘monitor and control the situation’ as part of the zoo’s emergency response.

‘This enabled keepers to use their relationships with the lions, as well as their training for such incidents, to calmly call the lions back to their exhibit, ensuring a peaceful and safe outcome for all people and animals,’ the zoo said.

‘The four other cubs and adult male lion appeared to remain calm and investigated the other side of the main containment fence, remaining within metres of their exhibit, before actively trying to find their way back under the fence.’

The zoo's review into the enclosure escape, which is still ongoing, has recommended a 'tensile-structure engineer' conduct an investigation and provide specialist advice on the fence (pictured, police seen at the fence near the lion viewing area)

 The zoo’s review into the enclosure escape, which is still ongoing, has recommended a ‘tensile-structure engineer’ conduct an investigation and provide specialist advice on the fence (pictured, police seen at the fence near the lion viewing area)

For the two cubs that had passed the secondary fence, one walked back to their exhibit without issue while the other was tranquilised by vets and returned. 

Taronga Zoo concluded their statement saying the lions would ‘continue to remain in an outdoor, back-of-house holding area pending the specialist engineering advice’.

Because the lions escaped their enclosure before the tourist attraction opened its gates for the day, there were only workers present in the vicinity besides the families who were camping overnight. 

The review into how the lions escaped, which is still ongoing, has recommended an  ‘independent tensile-structure engineer’ investigate the fence and provide specialist advice on how the clamps broke and how the fence should be fixed.

TIMELINE OF THE TARONGA ZOO LION ESCAPE 

4am: A family staying in the Roar and Snore tents near the lion enclosure are woken by ‘roaring’.

6.30am: Lions escape their enclosure. 

6.40am: The Code One lockdown alarm sounds in the zoo and all staff, apart from lionkeepers, are ordered to hide in ‘safe havens’. Roar and Snore guests, about 50, are evacuated from their tents and moved to a safe area. 

6.50am: Zookeepers control the situation and move the five lions back to their enclosure. 

8am: Roar and Snore guests are allowed back into their rooms. 

8.28am: 2GB Sydney radio host Ben Fordham breaks the news Taronga Zoo is in lockdown after the escape of four lions.

8.52am: Taronga Zoo releases a statement confirming the incident which states five lions escaped but are back in their enclosures.

It said: ‘An emergency situation occurred this morning at Taronga Zoo when five lions were located outside of their enclosure.

‘The zoo has strict safety protocols in place for such an incident. All persons onsite 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 will open as normal today. Further details will be provided when possible.’

10.30am: Zoo officials confirm the escape was caused by a breach in the Savannah enclosure fence.

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