Pride of lions escapes at Sydney's Taronga Zoo

One cub was sedated to move it back to the enclosure, the zoo said

Lioness Maya and her cubs pictured at Taronga Zoo, in Sydney, Australia, in November last year. EPA
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A family of lions escaped their habitat at a Sydney zoo on Monday, leading to a lockdown at the park.

Taronga Zoo said an “integrity issue” with one of the fences in the lion enclosure allowed for the escape, in which one adult and four cubs were loose in a small closed-off area.

The lions escaped at 6.30am on Wednesday and were free in an area separate from the rest of the zoo for “less than 10 minutes” before the emergency response was activated,

A two-metre fence separated the creatures from the rest of the zoo.

“All persons on site were moved to safe zones. Four of the lions calmly returned to their dens, and one cub was safely tranquillised. The cub is now awake and well,” The zoo said in a statement later on Wednesday.

Members of the public were on site, staying in safari-style tents as part of a “roar and snore” experience.

“The alarm went off and the zookeepers came running down, screaming, ‘code one, code one, everyone get out of the tents’,” Magnus Perri, who was camping over with his family, told Guardian Australia.

“We had to leave our belongings and they took us to a cabin to hide. We thought it was a drill until we heard on one of the staff’s radios that the lions had escaped. It was pretty shocking. Imagine facing a lion, it was our worst nightmare.”

Taronga Zoo is set in a leafy, affluent neighbourhood with views of Sydney's famous opera house and harbour bridge. It opened as usual later that day.

Taronga Zoo employees inspect fences after the lion escape. Reuters

Zookeepers checked the fences of the lion enclosure for damage.

The zoo has two adult lions, Maya and Ato, and their five cubs Khari, Luzuko, Malika, Zuri and Ayanna.

A fully-grown male African lion can weigh as much as 250 kilograms, while females get as heavy as 180kg.

A two-year-old Bengal tiger escaped its enclosure at Taronga Zoo in 1946, roaming the grounds in what a newspaper described as a “frenzy of fear” before it was shot and killed by a keeper.

More than 20 police officers rushed to a suburb in Sydney's west in 1982 after a lion was spotted near a soft drinks factory. The animal was later identified as a large cat called Ginger.

One of Sydney's most famous animal escapes happened in February 2020, when baffled onlookers watched three baboons scampering about an inner-city car park after they bolted from a medical research centre.

Updated: November 02, 2022, 9:09 AM