“Everyone wants to escape, everyone’s drawn to escapism to leave their lives for an hour or two, and we’re all curious human beings.” – Josh Bowman, British actor
It’s definitely true that humans want, even need, to escape the hum-drum of everyday life. Stress from work, kids, bills, people walking slowly in front of you at the grocery store, can all add up to a less-than-enjoyable life. But getting away from it all, even for an hour or two as suggested by Mr. Bowman can be all it takes to reinvigorate you and make life enjoyable once more. Here’s the thing to consider: does that desire to escape stop with humans or do animals feel that same urge? Snippetz says you can bet your sweet booty they do, especially those animals that don’t have the freedom to roam the wild, namely zoo animals. Why can we be so certain about that? Well, there are many instances of animals escaping from the zoo, often to wander around for a bit, seemingly to break free from not only their literal cages, but also the routine of life in a zoo. And naturally, Snippetz had to investigate these daring jail breaks so we’ve compiled a nice sample for you. Read on and enjoy!
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that many of the zoo escapes that have occurred over the years have involved monkeys or apes. Those smart little buggers certainly have given zoo staff a run for their money. For instance, in 1968, one of the most impressive examples of primate trickery came at the hands of the orangutan, Fu Manchu of the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska. Now, you might think that Fu Manchu simply pushed his way past a zookeeper or two and wandered out into his version of freedom. Orangutans are admittedly large and very strong. But that wasn’t the case. Fu Manchu actually escaped multiple times with no indication of how he managed to pull it off. Finally, one member of the zoo staff noticed Fu Manchu pulling a shiny metal object from his mouth, which turned out to be his own personal key to his cage. He had stashed the piece of wire between his teeth and jaw, hiding it away from anyone who may consider looking inside his mouth. Once the zookeepers caught on to his trick, they stripped his cage of anything he could use to escape in the future. Fu Manchu did not escape again but was awarded an honorary membership into the American Locksmith Association for his excellent lock-picking skills.
Although advances in technology have certain occurred in the years since 1968, some things never change, including the cunning intelligence of chimpanzees. On July 5, 2009, 30 chimps found a way off their island enclosure at the Chester Zoo in Liverpool, Great Britain, and absconded to freedom . . . otherwise known as the location of their food. The chimps caused quite a ruckus, forcing the zoo to evacuate 5,000 visitors although in actuality, there was nothing to fear. The chimps hunkered down to a tasty snack and ate until they were finally rounded up and sent back to their island. It was probably worth whatever risk those chimps thought was present just to be able to “taste” that kind of freedom (get it?).
If you’ve ever watched the movie “Tarzan,” you have probably seen various apes climbing vines throughout the jungle, and it probably looked relatively easy. Of course, for a human, it wouldn’t be but for an ape, with the ridiculous strength they possess, it’s certainly not unheard of. And on October 11, 2000, Evelyn the gorilla, housed at the Los Angeles Zoo, did just that. She found a vine clinging to the wall of her enclosure, climbed it and wandered around the zoo for about an hour. Zoo staff safely tranquilized her and placed her back in her enclosure.
A capuchin monkey named Oliver, who lived at the Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo in Mississippi, proved to be quite crafty as well. In 2007, he managed to escape from his cage twice in three weeks and both times, he high-tailed it out of the zoo and was found a few miles away. Zookeepers never figured out how he escaped but they suspected he had picked the locks. To keep him safely stashed away in his cage, the staff devised a system of three locks that he has yet to unlock. Oliver’s escapades earned him quite a bit of notoriety and the zoo even created a t-shirt with “Oliver’s Great Escape” printed on it along with a map of the routes he took.
NON-PRIMATE PRISONER ESCAPES
Sure, it’s probably easy to escape when you have a high level of intelligence and opposable thumbs on two different sets of hands. But monkeys are not the only animals to see their opportunity for escape and take it! On August 20, 2004, Juan, an Andean spectacled bear took advantage of just one such instance at Germany’s Berlin Zoo. He paddled a log across the moat surrounding his outdoor habitat and climbed the wall. His freedom achieved, Juan wandered around the zoo until he found the playground. Apparently, that was all he was looking for because he spent the rest of his “free” time riding the merry-go-round and going down the slide. However, Juan did become bored and was in the process of looking for another source of entertainment when zoo staff distracted him with a bicycle of all things. He stopped to check out the contraption and was tranquilized on the spot and returned to his enclosure.
Now, it may seem obvious that birds in zoos are difficult to keep grounded, so to speak. But most zoos, like Vancouver Zoo’s Parrot Gardens typically have that under control by clipping the wings of all their inhabitants. That just wasn’t enough to keep Chuva the Macaw from finding a way to blow that popsicle stand and make a break for freedom. Chuva, crafty as she was, found a way out of her enclosure and made a daring flight straight for the wall of the zoo. No one noticed and she slipped out into the parking lot without anyone being the wiser. Once they realized she was gone, zoo staff assumed she would be easy to find, not being able to fly . . . or so they thought. But three days later, they still hadn’t found her. Eventually Chuva was discovered hiding in the engine cabinet of a family’s RV, almost 20 miles from the zoo’s location. Smart girl.
Escaping the zoo can be difficult and sometimes it makes sense to team up to get the job done. That’s just what a boar, a fox and a set of kangaroos determined in 2012 when they apparently enlisted the other animals’ help to escape a wildlife park in Germany. The kangaroos had slipped under the barricades around its habitat, thanks to a hole dug by a fox next door. The last obstacle standing in their way was the outside wall of the zoo, which a wild boar had conveniently also dug a hole underneath from the outside. The marsupials squeezed through and were free, although two were found shortly thereafter. The third spent a bit more time exploring the free world but was soon caught and safely returned to the zoo.
Can’t get enough daring escapes? Stick around because Snippetz will be bringing you a second installment soon!