Over the years, a few animals have managed to carry out ‘The Great Escape’, ditching the surroundings of the Phoenix Park for a life of freedom. In many cases, the escaped animals were captured and returned to the zoo, but on occasion they had to be killed. The below are just a few examples of animals who have the trip over the wall or out the gate, some didn’t make it beyond the park, while others made it as far as city centre shopping centres.
The bear who feasted on sweets, and passed out.
In March 1939, a bear escaped from its enclosure only to be discovered in the refreshment rooms of the zoo, thankfully closed to the public at the time. He had feast on cake, sweets and nuts, and was discovered sleeping in a cloakroom!
The pelican who ended up in Drogheda, September 1961.
In September 1961 one of the two pelicans in Dublin Zoo escaped, and was spotted by many Dubliners “perched on houses and public buildings on the northside of the city.” Missing for three weeks, he was eventually recaptured. He was found in Drogheda, where he spent some time in the Civic Guard station before his return to the capital. This adventurer was following in the footsteps of an earlier pelican, who in September 1943 vanished from the zoo.
The stag who explored the Magazine Fort, February 1924.
In February 1924, a Wapiti stag spent a lonely night on a small island near the Castleknock gates to the park, having only arrived days earlier at the zoo from New Brunswick. Making short work of an eight-foot railing, he found himself occupying the small island instead. When approached, he darted towards the Magazine Fort, jumping its barbed wire fence with ease. After a long day of avoiding park authorities, the animal collapsed with exhaustion and died soon after his recapture.
Two cheetah’s in two weeks.
In August 1990, two Cheetah’s managed to escape from the zoo, only a week after one another. The second of these animals was shot dead, in an incident involving plain clothes Gardaí. When zoo vets fired two tranquillisers into the animal, it only seemed to become more agitated and Gardaí were required to kill it.
The incident was highly embarrassing for Dublin Zoo, coming so soon after another cheetah had escaped its premises. On a Saturday in August, the park was packed with families, and newspapers reported that children as young as twelve had witnessed the cheetah being shot five times at close range.
The Mary Street Raccoon.
In December 1942, a raccoon escaped from the Zoo and was later spotted wandering around Mary Street. His exploits were reported in The Irish Times on the 14th and 15th of December.
The following day, it was said he “continued to do the sights of Dublin”, and was “seen in various shopping centres.”