15 min read

10 Of The Greatest Zoo Animal Escapes

Earlier this week, seven chimpanzees at the Kansas City Zoo made headlines after getting out of their enclosure using a ladder they fashioned from a tree branch. And while that easily ranks among the most ingenious zoo breakouts, they're certainly not the first animal escape-artists to succeed in their bid for freedom.

Chuva The Macaw Hitches A Ride

Keepers at the Vancouver Zoo's Parrot Gardens had thought they'd covered all their bases to prevent their birds from escaping by clipping their wings, but that didn't stop one crafty animal from making a break for it. In 2009, a macaw named Chuva somehow managed to sneak out of her enclosure there and flutter undetected over a wall and out into the parking lot.

For three days, zoo staff puzzled over where Chuva could be hiding out -- imagining that she couldn't have gotten too far. They were wrong. The bird's adventure finally came to an end after a family discovered her hiding out in their RV's engine cabinet nearly 20 miles from where she had escaped.

Clever Monkeys Discover Rocks Are Good At Breaking Locks

Capuchin monkeys in the wild have been observed using stones as tools to make their lives a little easier. like in cracking open stubbornly hard nuts. But a group of monkeys held captive at a zoo in Brazil discovered that rocks are handy in other situations as well.

Staff at the facility were surprised, and no doubt a bit impressed, to find the eight capuchins under their care had all escaped the enclosure by using stones to smash open the lock keeping them in before disappearing into the jungle beyond.

Only four of the monkeys were recaptured.

Raccoon Picks The Perfect Time To Ditch Captivity

Officials at the Tropiquaria Zoo in Somerset, England had thought that their raccoon were happy enough with life, showing no particular desire to running away -- but it turned out not to be the case.

After a few days of heavy rains and flooding in the area earlier this year, one of the captive raccoons, a female named Missy, seized upon the opportunity to make a break for freedom. With the normally hardened soil around the perimeter of softened in the downpour, the clever creature was able to dig a hole big enough to slip through while no one was watching, escaping into the night.

Her life on the lam, however, was short lived. Perhaps realizing that she'd left behind the only other raccoon around back at the zoo, Missy was discovered five weeks later, hiding out in an unused building not far from her enclosure.

Penguin Trades Aquarium Pool For A Bay

The artificial penguin pools at the Tokyo Sea Life Park weren't quite convincing enough to keep one black and white waddler from wanting a bit more room to roam. A 13-foot wall and barbed-wire fence weren't enough to keep one Humboldt penguin, dubbed Penguin 337, from breaking free of its enclosure to take up residence in Tokyo Bay in 2012.

For months, the 1-year-old bird eluded capture as keepers struggled to track it down. The aquarium was worried that the penguin, raised in captivity, wasn't equipped to handle life on the outside -- but by the time they finally were able to catch the feathered fugitive, it was clear that it could take care of itself just fine, thank you very much.

"It didn't look like it has gotten thinner over the past two months, or been without food," said the aquarium's deputy director at the time. "It doesn't seem to be any weaker. So it looks as if it's been living quite happily in the middle of Tokyo Bay."

Wild Tiger Tries Out Zoo Life, Escapes Weeks Later

Staff at the Nandankanan Zoo in India hadn't been planning on adding any more animals to their big cat exhibit, but when a young wild tiger wandered out of the jungle and onto the grounds of the facility, looking for a bit of romance with their captive tigress, they didn't hesitate to invite him in. Over the next few weeks, the tiger seemed to settle in quite nicely, enjoying carefree days of free food and naps in the shade -- though zoo life it did eventually lose its luster.

About a month after wandering into the zoo, the wild tiger decided that captive life just wasn't for him. Keepers coming to check on their new arrival one day discovered that the animal had somehow managed to loose himself, scaling a 20-foot security wall to return back into the forest from whence he came.

A camera within the enclosure was there to record the remarkable incident, but the cat evidently severed its wiring before making a break for it.

Flamingo Spotted 8 Years After Fleeing Zoo

The Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas had been planning on keeping an African flamingo on display at their facility, but the bird had other plans. In 2005, having already spent three years of its life under lock an key, the flamingo seized upon a rare opportunity to fly away -- disappearing from sight before keepers could do anything to stop it.

For eight years, no one had any idea what had become of the fugitive flamingo, so far away from the continent where its particular species could be found. But it turns out, the bird is making the most of things.

Just last December, a bird-watcher on the Gulf Coast of Texas spotted the African flamingo 650 miles from where it had escaped, confirming its origins from a band the zoo had put on its leg -- and it wasn't alone. The exotic Old World bird had apparently found a New World flamingo to be its companion.

When the birds keeper, Scott Newland, heard the news that all was well with the animal that slipped away so many years earlier, he was impressed.

"It's a testament to the adaptability of these animals," he says.

Dolphin Frees Herself From Her Captures, Rejoins Pod In The Wild

When fishermen off the coast South Korea found that they had accidentally snared a dolphin in their nets back in 2009, instead of doing the right thing and letting it go, they decided to cash in on their catch, illegally selling the animal to a local aquarium.

For the next four years, the 10-year-old female dolphin, named Sampal, was forced to perform tricks in a dolphin show there, kept in a small pool that bore no resemblance to the open ocean where she had lived among her pod. Eventually, word got out about Sampal's wild origins and the unlawful transaction that landed her in captivity, and soon a campaign was mounted to have her turned loose. Sampal's case was then taken on by the Korean High Court, which ordered her to be set free.

Rusty The Red Panda Tours D.C.

Last summer, a red panda named Rusty became a social media darling after escaping his exhibit at the National Zoo in Washington D.C., leading to a keepers on a extensive red panda-hunt through the streets of the nation's capital -- alerting the public to keep an eye out for the animal via Facebook and Twitter.

Although it only took about an hour for the daring escape-artist to be recaptured, zoo officials could never quite figure out just how he got free in the first place.

Boar And Fox Aid Captive Kangaroo's Escape

Sometimes, escaping captivity takes a team effort -- as in the case with one kangaroo in Germany who escaped a wildlife park with the help of an interspecies collaboration.

Officials at the park say the animal was able to make a break for freedom by slipping through holes in two separate barricades that were keeping it in. Evidently, a fox had dug a passageway underneath the kangaroos enclosure fence large enough for it to squeeze through, but that only got the animal so far.

Fortunately, a boar had done the same, creating a crucial hole beneath the park's main exterior wall -- also big enough for the freedom-loving kangaroo to find a way through.

Orangutan Breaks Out Three Times, Teaches Others How To Do It Too

No discussion of impressive zoo escapes would be complete without mention of the most famous animal escape artist in history. In the 1980s, a Bornean orangutan named Ken Allen held captive at the San Diego Zoo became known around the world for his repeated break-outs in enclosures thought to be impossible to outsmart.

In the summer of 1985, the clever primate somehow managed to set himself free on three separate occasions, taking the opportunity to stroll peacefully around the zoo. Ken was so clever, he even demonstrated to other orangutans how to get out by using a tree branch as a crowbar to pop open the gates to their enclosures too.