4,000 lb rhino escapes Jacksonville zoo

May 8, 2010

A monstrous rhinoceros escaped his pen at a zoo in Jacksonville, FL, The Florida Times-Union reports.

Archie the rhinoceros

Look at the size of him!

Keepers attempted to lure Archie back to his enclosure with food, but to no avail. Eventually the prodigious perissodactyl was sedated and hauled back behind bars. At no time were the public in danger, since the brute remained contained behind a second fence.

Rhinoceroses are not, of course, renowned for their cunning or dexterity. Neither were required for Archie to secure his freedom, since (surprise surprise) a keeper had left a gate open.


Ape apologist: apes escape because they can

March 17, 2010

Following Dallas Zoo’s recent embarrassing incident, The Dallas Morning News quizzed Kristen Lukas, who holds the gorilla chair at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan.

Dr Lukas is evidently an individual of exquisite taste and subtlety, since her answers betray a close reading of these pages. Asked whether gorillas are more likely than other species to spring from confinement, she answered:

I am not aware of any data that would [support that conclusion]. I am aware of a wide range of animals that have breached containment in a zoo, including birds, turtles, snakes, monkeys, carnivores, insects and hoof stock, in addition to apes. You may be aware that 30 chimpanzees escaped a British zoo enclosure last year, for example. I think the evidence to date suggests orangutans [like Pulang and Karta] and are among the most creative escape artists.

When asked to consider what should be done to prevent animal escapes from zoos, Dr Lukas answered:

… things can happen unexpectedly. Equipment can fail, infrastructure can age and human error can lead to opportunities for animals to breach containment. In short: Animals escape because they can.

Read the Q&A in full.

When she is not (allegedly) reading idiotic animal escape blogs in her spare time, Dr Lukas works to understand the behaviour of captive animals — especially primates — with a view to improving their welfare.


Calgary snakes escape down drain

March 9, 2010

A pair of snakes at Calgary zoo slithered their way towards freedom through an open drain, CBC News reports.

The brace of Malagasy giant hognose snakes were returned to confinement following an exhaustive search of 274 metres of shit smelling foulness I can’t even imagine.

Zoo officials were at pains to point out that the snakes could not have entered the city’s sewer system, nor are they venomous: probably points one and two on the public’s escaped snake panic card.

Having snake-shaped tunnels littered around the vivarium might seem a bit of a blunder on the part of the zoo’s designers, but Cathy Gaviller, Calgary zoo’s director of conservation, education and research, laid the blame squarely at the door of the Human Error department:

“A normal procedure that was put in place seven years ago when we opened the building wasn’t followed,” she frowned.

No prizes for guessing that the “normal procedure”, in this case, involves closing the drain after cleaning it.

The hognosed snakes were closely followed by a hogbodied python that proved too fat to fit through the pipework, stage-whispering “Go on without me; I’ll only slow you down.”

CBC News notes that Calgary zoo has attracted the opprobrium of animal rights activists, who point to the zoo’s dismal record of keeping its inmates alive.

In recent years, the zoo has failed in its duty of care to a baby elephant, a hippo, a suicidal wild goat, four gorillas, more than 40 asphyxiated stingrays, and a solitary capybara that was crushed to death by a hydraulic gate.

Happily, on this occasion, all three snakes lived to escape another day.


Tokyo zoo runs tiger escape drill

February 23, 2010

Ueno Zoo in Tokyo has run its biannual animal escape drill, stuff.co.nz reports.

In characteristically unconventional style, the Japanese zookeepers have indulged in a little cosplay; the place of the escaped beast is taken by a furry who roams the zoo and terrorizes human onlookers.

Previous years’ escaped “animals” have been rhinoceroses, zebras, gorillas and polar bears. But this year being toradoshi, Ueno’s marauding mammal has taken the form of the tiger.


Dallas zookeeper disciplined following gorilla escape

February 23, 2010

A keeper at Dallas Zoo has been suspended following the escape of a gorilla, Dallas Morning News and Associated Press report.

A momentary lapse of the unnamed zookeeper’s attention allowed the 180lb beast the freedom of the Gorilla Research Center. The keeper “failed to verify the area was empty before stepping away to gather cleaning equipment,” according to Dallas Zoo Executive Director Gregg Hudson.

Tufani, the 19-year-old great ape, was summarily tranquilized before being carted back to her pen.

Although the massive primate was not afforded the liberty of public areas of the zoo, which was nevertheless closed at the time of her escape, the incident provides an uncomfortable reminder of a previous tragedy at Dallas Zoo.

In 2004, a 14-year-old female gorilla scaled the walls of her encolsure and went on a rampage, leaving three people injured before she was mown down in a hail of police bullets.

AP reports that security measures were “beefed up” following the 2004 incident, but the changes appear to be no remedy for human absent-mindedness.


Scottish ‘big cat’ captured on video

July 28, 2009

An MoD dog handler has captured video footage of a big cat wandering across railway tracks in Argyll, BBC Scotland reports.

Pc Chris Swallow, a dog handler stationed at HMNB Clyde, Faslane, was helping a friend clear their garden when he spotted the “labrador sized” creature on the tracks.

“There were trains coming and going throughout the day and I was a bit concerned, but when I looked again I saw that the animal wasn’t moving the way I expected a dog to,” he told BBC Scotland.

“It was then I realised that what I was seeing was a big cat and I shouted on my friend to come and have a look. We were stunned.”

Pc Swallow raced to his car to retrieve his camera phone, and succeeded in taking some remarkable footage of the beast.

John Belshaw, pest control officer at the Faslane naval base, said: “I have had a look at Chris’s footage and have to say that I do not believe it is a domestic cat or a dog …. You can tell from the size of the track that it is much larger than a house cat.”

Shaun Stevens, of Big Cats in Britain, said “Knowing the width of the rail tracks in Chris’s video is 4ft 8.5in, the animal photographed by him is clearly in excess of 4ft and as such is certainly not a domestic cat. Initial first impressions are very exciting, as I think this could be one of the best pieces of footage of a big cat in the UK ever.”

Not to be outdone, Stevens boasted “I myself have photographed a black hybrid cat of over 3.5ft in length”.


Another Aussie orangutan briefly escapes

July 13, 2009

An orangutan at Perth Zoo savoured the sweet taste of freedom for five fleeting minutes before voluntarily returning to her enclosure, WAToday reports.

The escape is remarkably similar to that of Karta, who defeated the electric fence at her Adelaide Zoo enclosure in May, only to give herself up minutes later.

Perth’s pongid Houdini is named Pulang, which, appropriately enough, means “come home” in Malay.

Once again, where humans design new enclosures for apes, hubris swiftly follows: WAToday reports Pulang’s new home was “state of the art”, and designed to “mimic the Sumatran jungle”. Its shortcomings were sufficiently obvious to the fifteen-year-old primate that she immediately loosened a rope from a fixing bolt and swung her way to freedom.

As is now traditional, a largely pointless “security review” has been ordered by zoo top brass. Chief executive Susan Hunt noted that “orangutans are [one] of the world’s most intelligent, inquisitive and agile creatures … capable of picking locks and undoing bolts and screws.