Taronga Zoo CCTV footage reveals details of lion escape

Two lions can be seen skirting the fence of their enclosure just metres from a back-of-house access road at Taronga Zoo in new footage that details how five lions escaped on November 2.

The lions seem to be looking for a way back into their enclosure in the CCTV footage,filmed an hour after they squeezed through a hole in a different part of the fence and also got past a secondary fence intended to keep the public away from their exhibit.

This footage shows some of the lions squeezing through a fence in the early hours of November 2.

This footage shows some of the lions squeezing through a fence in the early hours of November 2.Taronga Zoo

The five lions escaped just after dawn on November 2 after working at a hole in the bottom of the fence around their enclosure.

Their escape promptedan urgent evacuation of campers at the zoo’s Roar and Snore experience, which backs onto the lion exhibit.

The zoo is still carrying out a review into how the lions managed to open up the hole in the fence,and the exhibit is expected to remain closed until after Christmas to allow for the review and subsequent repairs.

The footage,which Taronga released today,shows four cubs working and playing at the bottom of the fence at about 6.20am,with one even rolling onto its back in an attempt to shimmy its way through the hole they have opened up.

Finally,the cub succeeds in pushing its way through to the other side. Three of its siblings quickly follow suit.

The cubs’ father,Ato,is among his offspring as they work at the fence,and after some pacing and confusion,follows them out of the hole,which seems to have gotten bigger,about 25 minutes later.

Two lions – one female cub and mother lion Ayanna – stay in the enclosure and can be seen pacing the fence in an apparent attempt to keep the pride united.

Just two minutes after Ato squeezes through the hole,a keeper can be seen calling Ayanna and her daughter back into their dens to secure them.

Meanwhile,on the other side of the fence,the escapees are looking for the way back in. The zoo said the lions were responding to calls from Ayanna and their keeper.

About half an hour later,a second security camera shows two of the lions,Ato and a female cub called Malika,near a different part of their enclosure,having got past the second fence,which marks off some bush near the lion exhibit.

The animals appear to still be looking for a way back in. Various white zoo vehicles then pull up on the road and when Malika cannot work it out,zoo staff tranquiliser her at about 7.50am – 90 minutes after she escaped.

The CCTV footage shows the escapee lions at Taronga Zoo metres from an access road.

The CCTV footage shows the escapee lions at Taronga Zoo metres from an access road.Supplied

She falls off a low wall that forms part of the fence and zoo staff work quickly to move the cub into the back of a van and drive her back to her den.

The zoo said in a statement that Ato was then coaxed back into his enclosure. “The five lions calmly investigated within metres of their main exhibit,” the zoo said.

“The lions will continue to remain in an outdoor,back-of-house habitat pending findings of the specialist engineering review,and at this stage,will not be back in their main exhibit before Christmas. More updates will be provided when a timeline for repairs has been confirmed.”

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Catherine Naylor is regional affairs writer for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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