Tiger wanders into zoo, tries captive life, breaks out a month later

tiger sticking out tongue
CC BY 2.0 poplinre

Late last April, keepers at India's Nandankanan Zoo were astonished to find that a wild Bengal tiger had wandered out of the forest and let himself onto the grounds of their facility. The big cat, thought to be around 5 years old, appeared to be attracted to the zoo's captive female tiger, and was spotted roaming around her enclosure. He was looking for love, it appeared.

A twenty-person team was assembled to forcibly capture the wayward animal -- but before they moved in, zookeepers had a better idea. While the tiger was at a safe distance, they swung open the entrance to the female's enclosure, and sure enough, the amorous visitor went inside to better introduce himself.

Over the next few weeks, as zoo officials debated what to do with their new arrival, the now-captive tiger made himself at home. With a steady supply of easy food and shady spots to relax, the tiger seemed content with the zoo experience -- for a little while, at least.

Whether it was the mundane routine of eating, napping, and pacing around, or simply the desire to pursue new horizons, it didn't take long before captive life lost its luster.

Amazingly, just as easily as the wild tiger broke into the zoo, he was able to break out of it -- scaling the nearly 2-story security wall, to the disbelief of his temporary captors. A video camera was there to record the escape, though the tiger evidently severed its wiring on the way out.

“The Central Zoo Authority guidelines prescribe a 16-foot height for enclosure wall, but this enclosure wall was higher," Chief Wildlife Warden, J D Sharma, told the New Indian Express. "The tiger apparently climbed the walls using the angle irons fitted at 8 feet and 16 feet height to support the structure. There is enough evidence of it walking on top of the wall."

So far, no one has been able to track down the tiger, though locals have been advised to be on alert that it may still be in the surrounding forests.

Bengal tigers are listed as an 'endangered', numbering less than 1,500 in the whole of India. Poaching, habitat loss, and other conflicts with humans continue to threaten the species, athough there are several rehabilitation centers throughout the country to preserve them. Unfortunately, however, in many cases tigers kept captivity are later deemed unfit to be released back into the wild -- which makes this animal's brief stint behind bars, and eventual escape, a reassuring testament to the seemingly universal instinct to be free.

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