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The Wildest Zoo Animal Escapes Of All Time

Updated July 10, 2020 24.6k views13 items

Zoos are pretty controversial places. While some zoos do an incredible amount for preservation efforts the world over, that definitely isn't true for all zoos. Keeping wild animals caged has its own set of unique draw backs – especially when the spectators themselves aren't too bright. But sometimes zoos just aren't able to keep their animals locked up. 

Since the modern zoo came into being nearly a century ago, crazy zoo escapes have been a fixture of society. Sometimes, the animals are bored of captivity and make a daring escape; other times, gaps in their fences allow them to step free. When transplanted from their natural environment, animals have shown a remarkable aptitude for springing themselves from the joint. Everything from kangaroos to hippos have joined the proud tradition of animals who broke free from their cells using wildly diverse means.

In honor of all those animals on the loose, here are the wildest zoo escapes in history.

  • A Bear Broke Out Of A Zoo In Western Germany After A Torrential Thunderstorm

    Early in the morning on June 1, 2018, several animals, including two lions, two tigers, a bear, and a jaguar, were reported as escaped from the Eifel Zoo in western Germany. An intense thunderstorm caused flooding in the animals' enclosures, and officials initially believed all the animals busted out of their pens. Authorities told citizens to stay indoors and lock their doors as firefighters and police searched for the animals. 

    Using a drone, authorities were able to locate all of the animals, most of which were actually still safely contained in the zoo; employees originally were unable to find the animals in their enclosures due to the massive amount of flooding. The only animal to actually escape was the bear, and officials shot him after spotting him on one of the zoo's public paths. The bear died.

    "We're very happy that the scenario we had initially feared didn't turn out to be the case," Azfeld mayor Andreas Kruppert said. 

  • Penguin 337 Escaped The Tokyo Zoo And Remained At Large For Two Months

    In 2012, a Humboldt penguin named 337 managed to scale a wall and squeeze through a hole in the fence at the Tokyo Sea Life Park. It then remained at large in Japan’s capital city for nearly two months before it was recovered.

    Perhaps most surprisingly, 337 was able to subsist in the urban landscape relatively unscathed. When he was spotted and recovered, a spokesman for the Tokyo Sea Life Park said the penguin was in good health and had even managed to hunt successfully, maintaining its weight throughout the ordeal.

  • Rusty The Red Panda Escaped The National Zoo After Only A Week In Custody

    Video: YouTube

    One morning in June 2013, zookeepers at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, opened the red panda enclosure to find their recent acquisition, an 11-month-old red panda named Rusty, had gone missing. According to keepers, Rusty had escaped when rains weighed down trees near the enclosure allowing him a pathway to escape.

    In the short span of time before he was recaptured (thanks to a tip on Twitter), Rusty was able to travel nearly a mile. Since his escape, the red panda and his mate, Shama, were relocated to the Smithsonian's Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, VA to start a sweet red panda family.

  • Despite Escaping, All Lioness Nala Wanted To Do Was Come Home

    In 1997, heavy rains damaged the lion enclosure at Jungleland, a seven-acre zoo in Kissimmee, FL. While workers attempted to fix the cage, a two-and-a-half-year-old lioness named Nala made a break for it and stayed on the lam for nearly two days.

    Like an escaped house cat, however, keepers at Jungleland reported that Nala – who had been raised in captivity – tried to return to her cage on at least one occasion after escaping. Unfortunately, the frightened lion would flee before workers could get close enough to help her. Nala was finally caught when she was spotted by a search helicopter, which led keepers to Nala’s location. She was immediately tranquilized and led safely back to Jungleland.