by Neil Pooran
AN ESCAPED bull went on the rampage at Edinburgh Zoo today, causing frantic scenes as people were herded into gift shops and cafes.
The 600KG beast was one of two cattle which broke free from handlers inside the zoo, and had to be shot with a dart gun. Staff warned members of the public to stay indoors as the animal was free for around 40 minutes.
The escape was reported just after 3pm today, and zoo staff armed with tranquilliser guns were seen running around the compound.
The escaped animals were a pair of Heck cattle, which sport horns almost three feet long. The escape comes less than a week after another animal at the zoo was recaptured – though the cattle could prove considerably more difficult to recapture than the bright-red Ibis bird.
Three bull and nine female Heck cattle arrived at the zoo from Devon in 2009 and are located in a field near the top of the hill on which the zoo is located.
Panicked zoo-goers Tweeted their fears about the bizarre situation. Michaella Nicholson tweeted: “Well can’t believe were stuck in the chimp enclosure at Edinburgh zoo as a bulls got out”.
Beckie Duffy Tweeted: “My dad just text me saying a bull has escaped in Edinburgh zoo, fun”. Computer scientist Richard Dean Tweeted: “From the direction the men with guns were heading, we think it was either heck cattle, a giant anteater or the Asiatic lion that’s escaped.” He said earlier: “It’s all turned a bit Jurassic park. Keepers telling us to move faster while people with rifles head the other way”
A Lothian and Borders Police spokeswoman said: “Two large cattle have escaped. They are certainly on top of Corstorphine Hill.
“They do not require police attendance.”
Staff at the zoo had phoned the police as a courtesy and were dealing with the animals themselves, she said.
An Edinburgh Zoo spokeswoman said: “An adult Heck Cattle bull escaped from its enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo for 40 minutes on the afternoon of 3rd September. It stayed within the locality of the enclosure. Edinburgh Zoo visitors were immediately escorted to indoor areas in the Zoo. Edinburgh Zoo’s trained team of expert keepers and veterinarians safely and effectively darted the animal. Staff are establishing the circumstances of the escape, and have secured the area.”
“We regret any inconvenience this caused and our visitor services staff will respond to any queries related to this incident.”
A spokesman for Edinburgh Zoo said he was not at the zoo and did not presently have any information. The escape comes exactly a week after zoo staff recaptured an ibis that had spent several days on the loose.
The scarlet ibis known as Cherry flew off after a squirrel chewed through its cage. Unlike the escaped cattle, Cherry, two, posed no risk to the public. Keepers feared she might fall victim to “dangerous” local wildlife such as seagulls, or even starve to death.
A number of sightings were reported of the red wading bird who was casually strutting her stuff around the capital in a five mile radius.
After her escape, Cherry was able to evade capture from desperate zookeepers by staying perched in hard-to-reach places like trees and balcony ledges. But the bird-hunt was soon brought to an end when staff finally netted her using mussels, mealworms and prawns after her six day vacation.
In May, hundreds of visitors to the zoo had to seek shelter today after a family of hogs escaped from keepers and ran amok. Guests who took refuge in the monkey house described amazing scenes as zoo staff armed with sweeping brushes and dart guns pursued the Red River Hogs.
One of the fleeing hogs – from a family of two adults and two piglets – even managed to reach the enclosure belonging to the zoo’s normal star attraction, the Giant Pandas. After a drama lasting more than an hour, the two hot and angry 200lb adult hogs were shot with tranquiliser darts and captured unharmed.
And in June last year, a Gelada Baboon showing skill and daring worthy of Steve McQueen in The Great Escape to sneak past an electric fence and enjoy 10 minutes of freedom.