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Omaha zoo sends warning after rhino escapes enclosure

September 8, 2021 GMT

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A segment of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo was cleared out and visitors were warned to remain inside buildings after a 5,000-pound rhinoceros briefly escaped its enclosure, officials there confirmed.

The incident happened Tuesday afternoon, when zoo keepers spotted an Indian rhino named Jontu outside his enclosure grazing on grass in an area adjacent to the rhino barn that’s not open to the public, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

Visitors were asked to leave the area or shelter in buildings, and the zoo’s carousel and aviary were cleared of guests as a precaution. Dan Cassidy, the zoo’s vice president of animal management, said staff quickly pulled in trucks to serve as a barricade around the area to keep the rhino from wandering and used apples and leafy greens to lure him back in the barn.

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In all, the rhino was outside the enclosure for about 40 minutes, Cassidy said. The animal never showed any signs of aggression while outside the barn and the public was not in danger, Cassidy said. Vets were on hand with tranquilizer guns to be used as a last resort, if needed.

Zoo officials believe Jontu used his nose to push open a latch on a door that wasn’t locked properly. Cassidy said staff will critique the process of corralling the rhino and are considering changing the lock on the door from which he escaped.