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10 Mischievous Zoo Animals and Their Cheeky Escapades

by Benjamin Thomas
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Animals are known for getting in all kinds of scrapes. But when it comes to zoo animals, their adventures tend to be a little more outlandish than your average pet. Exhibit escapees are more common than you might imagine, and when these creatures get out of their cages, who knows what havoc they might wreak? Others have a reputation for messing with the visitors, like the frisky orangutan kissing young women or the chimp who flung his poop at a VIP. Here are ten stories of wild animal mischief from zoos around the world.

Related: 15 Animal Facts That Prove Their Awesomeness

10 Chimpanzee’s Grand Day out in Ukraine

Kharkiv’s escaped chimpanzee coaxed back to zoo with a raincoat and a hug

Ukraine has been in the news for a number of reasons of late, but perhaps the strangest is the story of an escaped chimpanzee out and about in the city of Kharkiv.

It all took place one drizzly Monday, September 5, 2022, when 13-year-old female Chichi made her way out of the zoo and started exploring the world at large. Zookeepers scoured the city for two hours, but luckily no harm had come to the runaway rascal. If anything, she ended up becoming a bit of a star on social media. After all, it’s not every day you see a chimpanzee sauntering around the city.

They finally found the cheeky primate mooching around Freedom Square. It took a long period of coaxing, but they eventually got her to put on a yellow waterproof jacket. Zookeeper Kozyreva—who has known Chichi since the chimp was a child—helped her into the coat and gave her a hearty hug. Handlers were then able to push her home as she sat on the seat of a bicycle.

No one knows for sure why Chichi decided to flee her enclosure, but some staff supposes it could be from boredom. The animals at Kharkiv Zoo are used to showing off to the visitors, but the country’s turbulent landscape means people aren’t flocking to the zoo like they used to.[1]

9 Flirty Orangutan Gets a Little Frisky in Bangkok

An orangutan in Thailand has made something of a name for himself by getting a little too familiar with some of the female visitors. The frisky primate was caught on camera groping the breasts of Angel Orangelor, a whopping great grin on his face. In the video, the orangutan can be seen embracing the 27-year-old tourist. He then pulls her in and kisses her square on the cheek. He even stuck his tongue out for good measure.

The flirty animal is a current resident of Safari World in Bangkok—and he has previous escapades to his name as well. Only weeks earlier, he had done the same with another visitor while she posed for a photo. Again, the hairy scamp popped his arms around her, placed his hands on her chest, and planted a kiss on her cheek.

Fortunately, neither of the young women seemed to mind the attention. “The orangutan was just trying to show me some love,” Orangelor explained. “My friends thought it was funny. We had a real bond.”[2]

8 The Chinese White Lion with a Distinctive Hairdo

Bangs are a bold look. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but they certainly make for a memorable appearance. Bruce Lee, Paul Weller, Joe Exotic—they’re all known for sporting the unique hairstyle. And now, as it turns out, a white lion in China.

In June 2022, photos began floating around the internet of A Hang, one of the stars of Guangzhou Zoo, and his rather spectacular bouffant. Some social media users wondered if it was the result of a botched haircut. But as an employee explained, the snazzy mullet was a response to humid weather conditions. “There is no hairdressing programme at the zoo, and we dare not cut a lion’s hair. You can say that he has ‘designed’ the hairstyle himself.”

Staff clarified that A Hang probably licked his paws and ran them through his fur to cool off. This, they reckon, coupled with the muggy weather, is what caused his mane to straighten and hang limp. After all, even the king of the jungle can suffer the occasional bad hair day.[3]

7 Baby Hippo Escapes to Spend Time with Giraffes

Hippo escapes from its enclosure in Copenhagen Zoo

In a zoo in Denmark, there lives a baby hippopotamus that has made a name for itself by wandering out of his enclosure to hang out with the giraffes. TikTok user Jasmin racked up millions of views after she recorded the adventurous tyke causing mischief at the Copenhagen Zoo.

In the clip, the hippo calf waddles bold as brass out of his area to slosh about in the giraffe’s pool and chew on some wires, even settling down for a snooze. Another video shows the miniature trespasser swiping hay from the zebras before heading back to see the giraffes again, looking for more hay to nibble on. In the wilds of sub-Saharan Africa, hippos travel miles from their waterholes in search of food. But this cheeky baby only has to pop over to the next enclosure for a snack.[4]

6 Police Arrive at California Zoo after Monkey Dials 911

Monkey accidentally calls 911 from zoo in Paso Robles

In August 2022, a tiny capuchin monkey somehow brought the police to a zoo in California after making a call to 911. One Saturday night, dispatchers received a strange call and were soon disconnected. Their attempts to get back in touch proved fruitless, so the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office sent two of its deputies to check how things were.

They traced the call to Zoo to You near Paso Robles. But when they arrived, they found that none of the staff knew anything about a 911 call. For a while, both officers and zookeepers were left scratching their heads. But it turned out that Route, a capuchin monkey, had stolen one of the zoo’s cellphones from a golf cart and inadvertently called the cops.[5]

5 Panda Hops the Fence at Beijing Zoo

Cute Panda escapes the Zoo!!! 🐼🐼

It’s back to China for this next story. Specifically, the Beijing Zoo, where a six-year-old panda hopped out of its enclosure to an audience of startled visitors. Meng Lan clambered over one of the six-foot walls to his enclosure and hopped down into the transition zone between his pen and onlooking tourists. Videos of Meng Lan’s bid for freedom show him poking his head out inquisitively for a look at the crowds.

Zookeepers used food to entice Meng Lan back into his enclosure. Shortly afterward, they announced plans to upgrade his security to stop the wayward bear from hopping the fence again.[6]

4 Californian Aquarium Flooded by Brainy Octopus

Sneaky Octopus Slips Out of Aquarium Tank, Travels Down Drain Pipe To Sea

In 2009, staff at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium received quite a shock when one of their exhibits decided to flood the place. A two-spotted octopus managed to dissemble a valve at the top of her tank. This sent over 200 gallons (757 liters) of water cascading into the surrounding building. The tentacled fiend didn’t use the chaos to break out. Instead, she remained in her tank as the sodden mayhem unfurled around her—laughing at the mess she caused, I’m sure.

Octopuses are clever creatures, but they also have a reputation for being regular practical jokers. And, unfortunately for aquarium staff, often their humor involves creating as much mess as possible. The brainy invertebrates have irritated employees at various exhibits by blowing the lights, pushing shrimp down the drain, and squirting them with water. There was even an octopus in New Zealand who had to be released back into the sea after his incessant attempts to escape. He once hid in a drain for five days after breaking out of his tank.

Experts have theorized that their unusually high aptitude could be the result of their constant struggle to survive under the sea. Amid the dangers of the coral reef, one foolish move could spell death. But the truth is no one knows for sure. “Octopuses have a wonderful combination of intelligence, tremendous manipulative ability, curiosity, and strength,” explained Jennifer Mather, a psychologist specializing in cephalopod behavior. “So the result is that everybody who has ever kept octopuses has a string of stories about how octopuses can go where they want in aquariums.”[7]

3 The Chimpanzee who Lobbed His Poop at a Visiting Retiree

Monkey throws poop at grandma! Hilarious video!

Let’s face it, all of us have bad days. Days when, for whatever reason, our patience with the world might run a little short. Days when our behavior might be a little less pleasant and a little more combative than usual. Yes, we all have days like that from time to time. Just like the chimpanzee who decided to throw his poop at someone’s granny.

The dirty protest was delivered by one of the captives at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Video footage shows the primate flinging its filth at the viewing station. The onlookers laugh and whoop, but one lone voice cries out amid the gigglers, “It got grandma.” The camera swivels around, and sure enough, there she is, an elderly woman sitting on an electric scooter, the center of her face covered in chimpanzee poop.

The fecal debacle was filmed by Erin Vargo, who also used to work at the zoo. According to Vargo, the poop-slinging primate who splattered grandma has previously committed the same crappy act. “He’s a serial poop thrower,” she told CBS. “It’s just never actually hit someone.”[8]

2 Escaped Meerkat Needs Rescuing after Diving off Ship

Meerkats make ‘a great escape’ and are rescued by a captain from the sea

Most of the entries on the list concern animals that caused chaos while they were in the zoo. But in the case of Boris the meerkat, he was wreaking havoc before he even arrived.

In 2022, the cheeky carnivore launched himself from Gry Maritha, a cargo ship docking in southwest Britain. Boris and his female shipmate, Doris, were being taken to Axe Valley Zoo in Devon, England, but the pair had other ideas about a life of captivity. They broke free from their cage and scurried around the deck while the crew tried to catch them. They got their hands on Doris before she could come to any harm, but Boris ended up plunging 30 feet (10 meters) into the sea around Penzance.

Skipper Tom Sexton hopped in after him. The escapee was soon captured and placed back in his cage, which had to be lowered over the side of the boat. After the ordeal, Boris’s owner described him as looking “very cold, but he survived and seemed quite happy.”[9]

1 The 10-Year-Old Who Stole a Penguin

Colchester Zoo Penguin Feed

Imagine walking into your bathroom only to find a penguin lolloping around in the tub. Well, that’s what happened to one British couple after their son decided to help himself to a Gentoo penguin during a visit to the zoo.

The young lad was on holiday with his family in France, and on their final day, they decided to see some animals near Calais. Unnoticed by mom and dad, the ten-year-old snuck into the penguin enclosure and popped one in his backpack. Nobody noticed on the ferry back to England or the drive home. The bird was sound asleep, nestled in a beach towel.

It wasn’t until they were back in Suffolk that the parents discovered what their son had done. The couple phoned officials at the RSPCA, who found the penguin a home at nearby Colchester Zoo. Vets gave the escaped bird a checkup, but they determined she was still in good health. They even nicknamed her Pingu.

According to reports, it took a while for the parents to calm down, but in the end, they saw the funny side of what their son had done. It turns out the boy just wanted to “give it a new home” and that he thinks he’d like to become a zookeeper when he’s older.[10]

fact checked by Jamie Frater