(TheRedWire.com) – What would it be like if you were enjoying the day at the zoo and came face-to-face with a large, 5,000-pound, male Indian rhino? Fear is the first word that comes to mind. Fortunately, no one came across an escaped rhino named Jontu at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo.
On Wednesday, September 8, at approximately 1 pm, zoo officials noticed 13.5-year-old Jontu was missing from his enclosure. Immediately, zoo safety precautions went into place, and zoo staff helped visitors shelter in place. It’s not the kind of situation the zoo visitors expect, but fortunately, it’s one zoo’s train for often.
It didn’t take long for the zoo staff to find the fantastically large animal. Employees spotted Jontu enjoying a grass meal 35 feet away from his enclosure in an area dedicated for use by zoo workers. Unfortunately, the massive animal didn’t want to leave the space. Why would he? There was plenty of tasty food for him.
A Little Creativity Goes a Long Way
Tranquilizing the large animal in the open area didn’t seem like the best plan. How many people would it take to lift the massive animal? How long would it take to get a crane, truck, or other equipment to move the rhino 40 feet? In the end, there was a more straightforward solution.
Zookeepers used pickup trucks to herd Jontu away from the grass and back to his enclosure. They baited him with scrumptious apples and other treats along the short journey to lure him back to his barn. From the time the rhino escaped to the time he was safely secured, Jontu enjoyed 50 minutes of freedom.
So, how did the rhino escape his safe place? The zoo said Jontu walked through a gate that an unsuspecting staff member unintentionally secured inadequately. Because the gate wasn’t properly locked, the rhino nosed the gate open and let himself out.
Prevention Is the Best Policy
Now that Jontu knows how to get out of his enclosure, zoo officials have devised a plan to ensure it doesn’t happen again. They plan to install a second gate and a fenced enclosure inside the staff area should an event like this happen again.
Vice President of Animal Management at the Henry Doorly Zoo said escapes happen at other zoos from time to time. When he’s heard of them, he’s wondered what kind of security lapses might allow a large animal to escape at those zoos.
Now he knows.
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