Top 5 Greatest Animal Escapes

Life in captivity is no life at all according to these animals. Rather than spending their days inside a veritable prison cell, these crafty animals undertook extraordinary measures to break free of their chains. Here are the Top 5 Greatest Animal Escapes.



By Natalie Kyriacou, Founding Director of My Green World



Greatest Animal Escapes

Chuva the macaw was a resident at Vancouver Zoo’s Parrot Gardens. Known for their intelligence, it is no surprise that this crafty parrot had been plotting a grand escape. Even though the Zoo had taken all precautions to prevent the Chuva from escaping (including clipping the poor bird’s wings), it seemed that the clever macaw was determined to break free. In 2009, Chuva eluded zoo authorities and snuck out of her enclosure. From there, she hitched a ride on an RV by hiding in a cabinet in the vehicles engine. Her road trip lasted three days before the RV owners finally found the bird and returned her to the zoo, much to her dismay.



Greatest Animal Escapes

A young Humboldt penguin, dubbed ‘Penguin 337’ decided that the artificial penguin pools at the Tokyo Sea Life Park were inadequate. Wanting a bit more room to roam, the sneaky 1-year-old penguin scaled a 13 foot wall, avoiding barbed wire fencing, and became a fugitive. Over the next few months, the young penguin had allegedly been spotted swimming in rivers running into Tokyo Bay, but had eluded keepers. Finally, one year later, in 2013, the penguin fugitive was recaptured. The aquarium was worried that the penguin, raised in captivity, wasn’t equipped to handle life on the outside , however, once they recaptured the feathered fugitive, they were shocked to discover that it was in perfect health, and looked to be living quite happily in the middle of Tokyo Bay.



Greatest Animal Escapes

The Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas had been arranging to keep an African flamingo on display at their facility, but unfortunately for them, the flamingo had other plans. It was 2005, and this flamingo had already spent three years of its life in captivity. Enough was enough. Seizing a rare opportunity to escape, the flamingo took to the air, disappearing from the zoo before anybody could stop it. For eight years, no one had seen nor heard of any news regarding the flamingo. Some feared the worst. But it turns out that the runaway flamingo was truly basking in its life as a free bird. In December 2012, a bird-watcher on the Gulf Coast of Texas spotted the African flamingo 650 miles away from where it had escaped, identifiable by its leg tag from the Sedwick County Zoo. The bird wasn’t alone. Apparently, this freedom-loving flamingo had found a friend, and was soaring the skies with a New World flamingo.



Greatest Animal Escapes

Sometimes, a prison (or zoo) escape requires a team effort. And that is exactly what happened in Germany when a kangaroo collaborated with a fox and a boar to ensure a seamless breakout. The kangaroo, far away from its true home in Australia, was able to make a break for freedom by slipping through holes in two separate barricades that were keeping it in. Luckily for the kangaroo, a fox had dug a passageway underneath the kangaroos enclosure fence large enough for it to squeeze through, but the kangaroo was then faced with another obstacle: the park’s main exterior wall. Fortunately, a boar had also dug a hole, which just happened to be big enough for the freedom-seeking kangaroo to slink through and hop off into the horizon.



Greatest Animal Escapes

No great escape story would be complete without mentioning the great escape of Ken Allen, perhaps one of the most infamous animal escapes in modern history. Ken was the resident orangutan at San Diego Zoo, and became known worldwide for his repeated break-outs in enclosures thought to be impossible to escape. In the summer of 1985, the clever primate escaped not once, but three times. He then would roam peacefully around the zoo. A veteran escape artist, Ken 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. Zoo staff were bewildered; they had been utterly outsmarted by Ken, who had never once been caught in the act. They began surveillance of his enclosure to try to catch him in the act, only to find that Ken Allen seemed to be aware that he was being watched for that very purpose. So zoo officials went ‘undercover’, posing as tourists so that they could learn Ken Allen’s escape route.

But still, Ken was not fooled. To add to the mystery and chaos, other orangutans began following Ken Allen’s lead and started escaping from the enclosure. Zoo officials eventually hired experienced rock climbers to track and trace Ken’s movements and spent $40,000 to fortify Ken’s enclosure. Ken Allen’s ability to outwit his keepers, as well as his docile demeanour during his escapes, resulted in fame. The Bornean orangutan is now known as ‘the Hairy Houdini’ and he was born in captivity at the San Diego Zoo in 1971. Sadly, Ken Allen developed cancer and was euthanised in December 2000. He was 29 years old.



A life in captivity can be torturous for many animals. Deprived of their natural habitats, with limited room to roam, and limited socialisation, many animals can develop psychological trauma and suffer immensely. You can support wildlife and protect habitats by downloading our app, World of the Wild, or visiting our list of partner charities here.


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