Rhino escapes enclosure at Omaha zoo


OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – An escaped rhinoceros prompted visitors at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium to shelter-in-place Tuesday afternoon.

According to a release from the zoo, Jontu the Indian rhino was found in front of the rhino enclosure, on behind-the-scenes path behind the aviary around 1 p.m.

No member of the public was in danger at any point, according to Dan Cassidy, vice president of animal management at the zoo.

Cassidy said zookeepers and officials used motor vehicles — including the zoo’s tram — to barricade the rhino from wandering farther from the Asian Highlands rhino exhibit and to corral him. Staff members used apples and other tactics to “entice” the animal back into its proper enclosure.

“He was out for about 50 minutes, but he went back in,” Cassidy said. “Nobody got hurt, and no animals got hurt, so everything went well.”

Upon learning of the animal’s escape, zoo officials enacted emergency protocols and “guests, students, and staff were immediately taken to a secure location.”

All entry points to the zoo were also closed at that time.

Zookeepers reported no signs of aggression and were on sight with tranquilizers had the rhino escaped beyond the vehicle barricade. It is reported that a gate was not properly locked and zoo officials were unaware of this being an issue prior to the rhino’s escape.

“It wasn’t locked quite right, and he just nosed the door open to let himself out,” Cassidy said. “We’re also going to put a secondary gate there.”

Cassidy stated that almost all of the other animal enclosures have secondary gates. He said the open area where the rhino was found will be reinforced with fencing so that “In the unlikely event this were to happen again, he would be even more confined.”

Henry Doorly officials confirmed in a release at about 2:25 p.m. that the animal had been contained and the zoo had resumed normal business operations.

“Everyone is safe,” a release from the zoo to parents of a student program said.

Watch Tuesday’s news conference.

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