America’s Most Wanted Zoo Animals
When Rusty the red panda took to the streets of D.C. on Monday, it captured the imagination — an adorable, real-life Paddington Bear enjoying his first taste of freedom in our nation’s capital. Of course, Rusty is just one part of a long legacy of rogue zoo animals — critters who have seized rare escape opportunities and headed for the hills, sometimes with tragic results. (And if you go back far enough, you’ll find some fantastic tales of escape — like a 1935 incident in which around 150 rhesus monkeys escaped a Long Island zoo.)
Here are 10 of the most recent famous getaways:
1. A painted stork, from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Date Missing: June 17, 2013. Status: at large. This “Jane Doe” got caught in a gust of wind while training for the zoo’s annual Frequent Flyers bird show. Bird laymen (i.e., most people who don’t work at zoos) often mistake painted storks for snowy egrets or blue herons, which has resulted in many false leads in the search for this beauty.
2. Satara the white rhino, from the Monarto Zoo, Southeast Australia. Date escaped: December 8, 2008. Date captured: December 8, 2008. Extremely, uh, eager to get to a pair of female rhinos in a nearby enclosure, Satara forced his way out of his wood-and-steel pen and rampaged through this open-range zoo before being tranquilized and wrangled.
3. Kitchi the North American river otter, from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Colorado Springs, CO. Date missing: March 2010. Status: at large. Kitchi was one of four North American river otters who escaped the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo three years ago after finding a bad crimp in the mesh containing their exhibit. Two were soon captured in the grizzly pool and a third in a secondary containment pool, still withinin zoo parameters. While the zoo had their “otter hotline” open throughout the spring of 2010, they soon gave up their search, and to this day assume Kitchi is thriving in the wild.
4. Kivuli the black-and-white colobus monkey, from the Audubon Zoo, New Orleans. Date missing: March 29, 2013. Date captured: March 29, 2013. This stately-looking guy got a full 30 minutes of freedom before being coaxed back into his exhibit by zookeepers. In the meantime, the gates were shut and visitors were ushered inside.
5. Leona the African penguin, from the Münster Zoo, Germany. Date missing: January 3, 2011. Date captured: January 3, 2011. Penguin #459 wandered out of her her enclosure and, poetically, wound up in the lion’s den. The cats were mercifully asleep, and zookeepers lured her out with a trail of herring.
6. Nikica the hippopotamus, from a private zoo in Montenegro. Date missing: January 13, 2010. Date captured: January 13, 2010. Flooding at a private zoo in Plavnica, Montenegro, carried Nikica, a two-ton hippo, from her her home. The zoo tracked her whereabouts and discouraged officials from killing her to keep villagers safe, insisting she was only aggressive when provoked. (“My hippo’s a good hippo.”) When floodwaters receded, she was brought back home.
7. Casper the pony and Razzi the Zebra, from a Staten Island petting zoo. Date escaped: November 28, 2012. Date captured: November 28, 2012. These hoofed partners in crime escaped what turned out to be an unlicensed petting zoo on Staten Island after their keeper left the gate open after a feeding. They were spotted in a parking lot that afternoon by a shopkeeper, who immediately took iPhone video. Police caught the pair that same day and returned them to their keeper (who had been photographed walking — yes, walking — the zebra down Travis Avenue a few weeks earlier).
8. Mia the Egyptian cobra, from the Bronx Zoo. Date escaped: March 24, 2011. Date captured: March 31, 2011. This venomous little minx slithered the streets of the Big Apple for a full week before being captured by zoo officials. The world watched the hunt unfold largely through Mia’s Twitter account, @BronxZoosCobra, which actually chimed in during the Rusty search.
— Bronx Zoo’s Cobra (@BronxZoosCobra) June 24, 2013
9. Reggie the alligator, from the Los Angeles Zoo. Date escaped: August 15, 2007. Date captured: August 15, 2007. Reggie went into captivity in 2005, after his adoptive owners realized that alligators are not as easily housetrained as they would have liked and decided to dump him in a city lake. Reggie scaled the fence around his exhibit (the Los Angeles Zoo notoriously lost 35 animals during six years in the late ’90s and early ’00s) and was later found on a loading dock.
10. Tatiana the tiger, from the San Francisco Zoo. Date escaped: December 25, 2007. Date killed: December 25, 2007. In a horrifying Ghost and the Darkness situation, this four-year-old female lion (who had bitten a zookeeper almost exactly one year earlier) escaped her enclosure and rampaged through the zoo, killing one person and mauling two others who were having lunch at the cafe on site. She was killed while sitting next to the two injured victims.