Taronga Zoo reveals cause of lion escape

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Taronga Zoo has revealed failed “swages” — the clamps that join wire cables — were the cause of the incident where five lions escaped their enclosure last week.

“The lions played and interacted with the fence for approximately 20 minutes before four cubs, and later adult male Ato, were able to breach it,” an updated statement read.

When the escape happened, students from Cammeray, Nowra Hills, and Old Bar public schools were camped overnight.

A spokeswoman also disclosed how Zoo staff risked their lives to search for two unaccounted-for school students in the zoo at the time.

“All our emergency protocols were followed as they should have been, and two students who were initially in a nearby bathroom were safely escorted to join their classmates in the B2B House — a designated safe house — within minutes,” the zoo spokeswoman said.

“Our staff reacted in a highly professional way to the incident and resolved it quickly, including the process of moving guests to a range of designated safe houses. We thank our staff and also the exemplary co-operation of guests.”

She also said the opening in the fence through which the lions escaped has since been fixed, but it’s unclear when the lions will return to their exhibit.

“The lions will not be back out on their main exhibit while we await further engineering advice,” she said.

“This advice will guide us on any further repairs or reinforcements needed,” she said.

“We would then seek approval from the 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.

“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.”

The spokeswoman said the fencing was “specially designed and engineered for zoo purposes”, meaning it required maintenance by specialists.

She said the incident had not impacted the lion’s wellbeing, despite one cub needing to be tranquillised.

“Lions are naturally inquisitive and exploratory animals,” she said.

“As soon as Taronga’s emergency procedures were enacted, keepers recalled the lions, with all but one cub — which was safely tranquillised — returning to their dens.

“We are relieved that the lions are well and have had no adverse impacts as a result of this incident.”