Rhino gets out of enclosure at Henry Doorly Zoo

(Omaha, NE) -- One of the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium's Indian rhinos forced a shelter-in-place warning on Tuesday after he escaped from his enclosure.

Zoo leaders say Jontu the Indian rhino was found in front of the rhino enclosure, on a behind-the-scenes path near the aviary around 1:00 Tuesday afternoon. Dan Cassidy, vice president of animal management at the zoo, says no member of the public was in danger at any point. Cassidy says zookeepers and staff used vehicles — including the zoo’s tram — to barricade the rhino from wandering further from the Asian Highlands rhino exhibit. Staff members used apples and other tactics to “entice” Jontu 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.”

While Jontu was out of the enclosure, zoo leaders 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 didn't report any signs of aggression and had tranquilizers on hand had Jontu 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 says that nearly all of the other animal enclosures have secondary gates and that the open area where Jontu was found will be reinforced with fencing so that, “In the unlikely event this were to happen again, he would be even more confined.”

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