Nov 28, 2023

Taronga Zoo lions: Failure of mesh wire investigated as escape method

This was published 7 months ago

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Taronga Zoo is zeroing in on the failure of fence fastenings after five lions were able to escape their enclosure earlier in the week.

The zoo said it was still awaiting the full engineering report and the lions would remain out of their main exhibit until further advice was received.

A failure of fastenings on the mesh wire fence may have been how five lions made their escape.

"Early indications suggest that the lions were able to exit the exhibit when fastenings of the mesh wire fence failed," said a statement from the facility posted online on Friday afternoon.

If any repairs or reinforcements are needed, the zoo will need to seek approval from the NSW Department of Primary Industries before returning the lions to their main exhibit.

"Our absolute priority is to ensure the safety of our people and guests and the welfare of our animals," the statement said. "While the zoo's intention is to fully complete all works necessary as quickly as possible, the exact timing of the works schedule is dependent on the expert advice we receive.

"In the interim the lions will remain in a back-of-house area. The lions remain well and appear to have had no adverse reaction as a result of this event.

"Again, we thank the public and Taronga's community for their support. We also acknowledge again the quick and professional response by our staff and the exemplary cooperation of guests.

"The zoo and its experiences remain open."

The four lion cubs and their father, Ato, were found outside their exhibit, but away from public areas, about 6.40am on Wednesday. Four returned to their enclosure after about 10 minutes but keepers had to tranquillise one cub and return it to captivity.

Born last year and feted as the zoo's first litter in 18 years, the lion cubs weighed up to 95 kilograms on their first birthday in August.

The lions will not return to their main enclosure until further investigations are conducted.

Fully grown male lions such as Ato are up to three metres long and weigh up to 150 kilograms.

The lion enclosure was cordoned off on Thursday by fences at both ends, and staff members informed zoo-goers that the section would stay closed for the remainder of the day. The incident sparked a code one warning, which is the zoo's most serious pertaining to dangerous animals.

In January last year, the zoo conducted a review into the escape of a chimpanzee, regarded as the zoo's most dangerous animal. Results of that investigation were not announced publicly, but in response to questions, Taronga said the chimp had likely escaped over the moat inside its exhibit. As a result, the moat was widened.

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