Big cat is quickly corralled after open gates allowed a brief escape from zoo enclosure
A Honolulu Zoo tiger walked out of its enclosure for a brief taste of freedom yesterday morning after a zoo keeper accidentally left two gates open.
Zoo officials are investigating the incident, which happened before the zoo opened and lasted about 10 minutes.
Berani, a 245-pound male Sumatran tiger, left the new tiger enclosure to an open area that is used by staff members and is surrounded by only a 4-foot fence, according to city and zoo officials.
Berani walked into the old tiger enclosure, and an alert zoo volunteer secured the gate behind the animal.
Berani, a 245-pound male Sumatran tiger at the Honolulu Zoo, nudged his way through two unsecured gates and escaped from his enclosure yesterday morning for about five to 10 minutes.
The escape occurred at 8:15 a.m., before the zoo opened to the public at 9:30 a.m., so there was never any threat to the public and no one was injured, city officials said.
A zoo keeper inadvertently left open two gates to the new tiger exhibit while cleaning the enclosures, then left to work on another exhibit.
The 8-year-old tiger strolled from the new exhibit to an old exhibit through an open area meant for zoo staff with a 4-foot fence around it. Berani could have jumped that fence into public areas.
A zoo volunteer was working in that area, but “Berani just walked right past the volunteer” and into an enclosed feeding area, said Sidney Quintal, director of the city Department of Enterprise Services.
Quintal said that fortunately, Berani was tame because he was hand-raised by humans.
The longtime volunteer remained calm and quickly shut the gate, securing Berani inside, Quintal said.
A zoo keeper coaxed Berani from the feeding area with a meatball into one of the bedrooms of the old enclosure, Quintal said.
“She’s (the volunteer) to be commended,” he said. She sounded the alarm, and a Code Red, meaning a loose animal, was broadcast. The zoo staff responded and prepared with a tranquilizer gun, which was not needed. Had the zoo been open, the staff would have been prepared for more drastic measures.
“This was all attributable to human error,” Quintal said, emphasizing that there was nothing wrong with the enclosures or equipment.
The actual time Berani was free was five to 10 minutes, and coaxing him back into the bedroom took an additional 15, he said.
The city is conducting an investigation to see what was mishandled, he said. Quintal said the city will take disciplinary action against the 10-year veteran zoo keeper but will not fire him.
Berani’s brief escape yesterday coincided with yesterday’s reopening of the San Francisco Zoo’s big-cat exhibit. The exhibit was closed after a Siberian tiger named Tatiana escaped Christmas Day, killing one visitor and injuring two.
Brennan said after the San Francisco tiger mauling in December, the Honolulu tiger enclosure, which was dedicated Nov. 19, was inspected. The inspection showed everything proved safe, city spokesman Bill Brennan said.
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