Five lions broke out of their enclosure at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, prompting it to issue a “code one” emergency alert, and forcing staff and visitors to run to “safe zones”.
The animals – one male adult and four cubs – were spotted outside their exhibit at 6.30am local time on Wednesday.
The zoo said an emergency response was enacted less than 10 minutes after the lions escaped.
Although the lions were still in an area separated from the rest of the complex by a 6ft fence, guests staying at the zoo as part of its “Roar and Snore” overnight programme were moved to safety.
“They came running into the tent area saying, ‘this is a code one, get out of your tent and run, come now and leave your belongings’,” Magnus Perri, one of the guests, told local media.
Zoo keepers tranquilised and returned one cub while the remaining four made their way back to the enclosure of their own accord by around 9am.
No people or animals were injured and the venue opened as normal.
The zoo does not know how the animals escaped and has launched an investigation.
“The zoo has very strict safety protocols in place for such an incident and immediate action was taken,” the attraction’s executive director Simon Duffy told a news conference.
He said the lion enclosure had two containment fences, and the animals had breached one of them.
In a statement on social media, the zoo said everyone on site during the incident was moved to “safe zones”.
It added: “All animals are now in their exhibit where they are being closely monitored.”
The zoo’s lion section is home to Ato and Maya and their five cubs – Khari and Luzuko who are male and Malika, Zuri and Ayanna who are female. Maya and Ayanna stayed in the enclosure while the others got out.