Lion escape Taronga Zoo: Roar and Snore family ordered to run from tent after animals flee enclosure

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Family was sleeping in a tent at Taronga Zoo when five ‘dangerous’ lions escaped their enclosure at 4am. Relive the terrifying moment when a frenzied caretaker yelled at them, “Hurry up! Leave your things!’

  • Five lions escaped from their Taronga Zoo enclosure at the Roar and Snore tents
  • The family of four in Sydney said they were told they had 30 seconds to leave their tent
  • They said they were escorted out of the tent along with 50 other guests by staff
  • All the lions are back in their enclosure and Taronga Zoo is open as usual

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A young family staying overnight at Taronga Zoo was given just 30 seconds to flee their luxury glamping tents after five lions escaped from their enclosure.

Sydney couple Magnus and Dominique Perri and their young sons Lucas and Oliver were staying in Taronga’s Roar and Snore tents on Wednesday when they were awakened by a roar.

Since the sounds of the animals were an important part of the experience, Mr. Perri said the family quickly fell asleep again, believing the lions were safely locked in their enclosure just meters away.

But less than three hours later, at 6:40 a.m., a loud alarm sounded across the zoo, with Taronga Zoo employees rushing through the campground urging everyone to evacuate immediately as lions run loose.

“It just happened so quickly,” Mr. Perri said.

Sydney couple Magnus and Dominique Perri and their young sons Lucas and Oliver (above) were staying at Taronga's Roar and Snore when they were told they had 30 seconds to 'come out' after a lion escape

Sydney couple Magnus and Dominique Perri and their young sons Lucas and Oliver (above) were staying at Taronga’s Roar and Snore when they were told they had 30 seconds to ‘come out’ after a lion escape

“They said, ‘Hurry up! Don’t worry about your stuff. This is Code One. Get out of your tent. Leave your stuff behind. You have 30 seconds to get out.'”

“People ran out.”

Mr Perri said the family were escorted to a safe place along with about 50 other Roar and Snore overnight residents for the next 90 minutes.

He also said he heard zookeepers yell “they’re still outside” until a tranquilizer gun was used to capture a lion.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday morning, Zoo director Simon Duffy confirmed that an adult lion and four cubs had escaped at 6:30 a.m.

“The lions were observed in a small area adjacent to the main lion exhibit, where a six-foot fence separated them from the rest of the zoo,” the zookeeper said.

“The zoo has very strict safety protocols for such an incident and immediate action was taken… Four of the lions quietly returned to their main exhibit and dens and one lion cub was safely stunned.

Police and zoo workers were seen checking the fencing at the lion's Savannah enclosure (above)

Police and zoo workers were seen checking the fencing at the lion's Savannah enclosure (above)

Police and zoo workers were seen checking the fencing at the lion’s Savannah enclosure (above)

The five escaped lions triggered a Code One alarm, but were back in their enclosure a few hours later (photo, Taronga lions)

The five escaped lions triggered a Code One alarm, but were back in their enclosure a few hours later (photo, Taronga lions)

The five escaped lions triggered a Code One alarm, but were back in their enclosure a few hours later (photo, Taronga lions)

‘All the animals are now safe in their secret annex and are closely monitored.’

The Taronga zookeeper said video footage showed the incident was brought under control within 10 minutes at 6:50 am.

“This is a major incident and a full assessment is now underway to confirm exactly how the lions were able to display their most important exhibit,” he said.

The Code One alarm is reserved for when a ‘dangerous animal’ has escaped or caused an alarming situation and instructs staff to exit immediately in a ‘safe haven’.

Taronga Zoo said in a statement it would open normally today after the lions were captured.

NSW police officers were present but confirmed that the zoo was “managing the situation on its own.”

Four lions escaped from their enclosure at Sydney's Taronga Zoo (photo, police seen at the fence at the lion viewing point)

Four lions escaped from their enclosure at Sydney's Taronga Zoo (photo, police seen at the fence at the lion viewing point)

Four lions escaped from their enclosure at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo (photo, police seen at the fence at the lion viewing point)

Visitors from Gloucestershire, UK, Kirsty, Stuart and Isabelle McLaren said they were not alarmed as they were free to roam the entire zoo once it opened at 9.30am.

“We’re just here to see the koalas,” Kirsty said.

The lions escaped from their enclosure — not far from the zoo’s ferry terminal — before the tourist attraction opened its gates for the day, meaning only workers were present.

The exhibits of chimpanzees, giraffes and zebras are also just meters away from the lion enclosure.

TIMELINE OF THE TARONGA ZOO LION ESCAPE

4 hours: A family staying in the Roar and Snore tents near the lion enclosure is awakened by a ‘roar’.

6.30 am: Lions escape from their enclosure.

6.40 am: The Code One lockdown alarm sounds at the zoo and all staff except the lion guards are ordered to hide in ‘safe havens’. Roar and Snore guests, about 50, are being evacuated from their tents and moved to a safe area.

6.50 am: Zookeepers control the situation and return the five lions to their enclosure.

8 am: Roar and Snore guests are allowed to re-enter their rooms.

8.28 am: 2GB Sydney radio host Ben Fordham brings the news that Taronga Zoo has been shut down after the escape of four lions.

8.52 am: Taronga Zoo releases a statement confirming the incident, stating that five lions have escaped but are back in their enclosures.

It read: ‘This morning an emergency occurred at Taronga Zoo when five lions were outside their enclosure.

“The zoo has strict safety protocols for such an incident. All persons on site have been moved to safe areas and there are no injuries to guests or staff.

“All the animals are now in their exhibit and are closely monitored by zoo staff. The zoo will open as usual today. Further details will be provided where possible.’

10:30 am: Zoo officials confirm the escape was caused by a breach in the fence at the Savannah enclosure.