Family in zoo sleepover told get out and run as 5 escaped lions terrorize park

Families camping out at an Australian zoo were thrown into a panic after five lions escaped their enclosure leading to zookeepers telling them to 'get out of their tents and run'.

Dozens of people had forked out hundreds of pounds each to spend the night just meters away from the lion cages at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia, as part of their "Roar and Snore" sleepover program.

The guests were sleeping soundly when zookeepers woke them around 6:30am with a "Code 1" emergency – meaning an incident involving a wild animal had occurred, Vice News reported.

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Magnus Perri, who had been camping in the zoo with his wife Dominique and their two children, told the Sydney Morning Herald: "[The zookeepers] 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 said he initially thought it was a drill.

“But then we heard on the radio, 'They are still outside,' so we realized something was out there,” he added.

"And they said, ‘It’s the lions.'"

The guests later learned that four lion cubs – aged one and approaching adult size – and their dad, Ato, were found wandering around outside their cage.

Once awake the visitors – around 30 in total – were all escorted to a block of toilets where they hid until the crisis was over.

“They opened the door, everyone got in, they counted us, and they locked the door, and we were staying inside the building,” Magnus told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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The lions were first sighted next to the main exhibit behind a six-foot fence, separating them from the rest of the zoo.

Zoo bosses said that by 9 am, all but one of the escapees had “calmly” returned to their enclosure.

The last cub was tranquilized by vets.

Taronga Zoo later issued a statement, in which it said staff "confirmed it was less than 10 minutes between the lions exiting the main exhibit, and the emergency response being enacted."

The zoo now plans to conduct a full review of both the incident and the exhibit to make sure it's "100% safe."

Simon Duffy, Taronga Zoo's executive director, said: "This is a significant incident and a full review is now underway to confirm exactly how the lions were able to exit their main exhibit."

Taronga Zoo attracts around 1.58 million visitors every year, but despite its popularity and reassurances by Duffy, this is not the first incident of its kind at the popular tourist spot.

In January last year, a chimpanzee also managed to escape its enclosure and was seen sitting outside its exhibit.

The zoo called an emergency response unit, but fortunately the ape returned to its enclosure without intervention and Taronga said it would investigate how the monkey managed to escape.

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