12 Great Escapes By Animals in Captivity


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If the media treatment is any indication, people recognize that wild animals do not enjoy living in cages. Films like Free Willy and Madagascar tell exciting stories of animals escaping from their captors, yet the characters’ real-life counterparts still sit behind bars. But often these wild animals either break out of their enclosures to freedom (or get lucky and find an open cage door). Unfortunately, these are only glimpses of freedom and rarely end well for the animals involved, as they are typically recaptured or killed.

Giraffe-Led Stampede – Dutch Circus, Netherlands

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While all the animals were eventually corralled back into cages, one giraffe led 15 camels, three zebras and some llamas and potbelly pigs away from their captors by kicking a hole in the cage.

Jabari the Gorilla – Dallas Zoo


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The Dallas Zoo has a history of ape escapes — a chimpanzee escaped in 1998 and another gorilla in 2000. Jabari, a 300-pound mountain gorilla, evaded zookeepers for nearly an hour after escaping his enclosure.

Ichiro the Chimpanzee – Ishikawa Zoo, Japan

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An old male chimp jumped at the chance of freedom and slipped out of an open cage door in Japan. While he eventually was recaptured, he did not go down without a fight — he even managed to snatch a tranquilizer gun right out of a guard’s hands.

Bruno the Orangutan – Los Angeles Zoo


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A 29-year-old orangutan somehow broke through his netted enclosure at the Los Angeles Zoo, provoking a complete evacuation of the area while zookeepers searched for him.

Satara the Rhino – Monarto Zoo, Australia


AAP headline writers had some fun with Satara’s escape: “Zoo chaos as sex-crazed rhino goes on rampage,” but Satara really was trying to reach his mate when he busted through a gate.

Tatiana the Siberian Tiger – San Francisco Zoo


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Tatiana’s tragic story was heard around the world, but the true story is still quite a mystery. She somehow escaped from her enclosure before mauling two young men who may or may not have been harassing her moments before.

Two Elephants – Garden Bros. Circus


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Asian elephants Susie and Bunny escaped from their pen while the Garden Bros Circus stopped in Toronto, Canada, but the circus’ third elephant slept through her friends’ escape. The two were soon captured and returned to their sad life of doing tricks.

One Lucky Panda – Unknown zoo

Not much is known about this video, but it takes certainly the prize for the cutest escape. It seems the second panda did not think through the plan carefully.

Angry Elephant – Unknown circus

This clip, featured in the film Earthlings, shows what can happen when a four-ton elephant decides that he does not want to perform for humans anymore. Who is to blame for this rampage — the wild animal or his captors?

Chuva the Macaw – Greater Vancouver Zoo


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When zookeepers found that a Macaw had vanished, they were baffled because they knew his wings were clipped, preventing him from flying away. They later found that did not stop him from fluttering out of the enclosure and catching a ride inside an RV’s engine cabinet.

Circus train escape – St. Louis, 1887


(images via: NY Times, the circus blog)

Back in 1887, circus animals were even worse off than they are today.  Without the basic welfare laws and regulations that now exist, trainers were free to treat the animals however they pleased, often beating them into submission.

Nine Snow Monkeys – Oregon University


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The security in animal testing labs makes animal escapes a bit harder (unless they’re somehow aided by human friends). But nine monkeys managed to escape unassisted from an Oregon Health & Sciences University lab this year and evaded capture for hours.