Prague Zoo orangutans’ escape attempt foiled by bananas

A family of four endangered primates took a stroll and had a brief chance to see the zoo from the other side of the fence.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 20.05.2022 09:56:00 (updated on 20.05.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

Four orangutans at Prague Zoo briefly escaped, but after a short time on the run, they were recaptured. Their bid for freedom was done in by their fondness for bananas.

The zoo has four Sumatran orangutans: male Pagy (21), female Mawar (32), female Diri (9), and baby male Kawi (1). The trip outside the enclosure was a family outing, not unlike many visits to Prague Zoo. Mawar is the mother of both children. Pagy is the father of Kawi, while Diri has a different father.

The endangered primates managed to disconnect a steel net at the Indonesian Jungle Pavilion. They walked across the pavement and climbed onto the roof of the pavilion.

The zoo staff took the incident in stride.

“We had a great time here. The orangutans managed to disconnect the two parts of the stainless steel net and enjoyed their moment outside the pavilion. Fortunately, we quickly managed to lure them back,” Prague Zoo director Miroslav Bobek said on Facebook.

They came down from the roof when they were offered bananas, and were recaptured without incident.

The Indonesian Pavilion opened in 2014, and is the largest and also the most expensive structure ever created for animals in any Czech zoo. The gorilla pavilion currently under construction, though, will be larger. It is set to open later in 2022.

Kawi was born on Nov. 17, 2020. At that time the zoo was closed due to Covid.

Since Pagy is the son of Prague Zoo’s famous orangutan Kama, who was born there in 1971, then Kawi is the third generation of orangutans born at the zoo. Kama, the first orangutan born in Czechoslovakia, passed away in 2013 of old age.

There are three species of orangutan, and all are considered critically endangered due to loss of habitat and poaching. The forests they live in are cut down for logging and to make palm oil.

Prague Zoo's Mawar and newborn Kawi in 2020. Photo: Prague Zoo, Miroslav Bobek.
Prague Zoo's Mawar and newborn Kawi in 2020. Photo: Prague Zoo, Miroslav Bobek.

Orangatans are intelligent and curious, and capable of making simple tools. They can now be found in the wild only in Borneo and Sumatra. The name “orangutan” comes from Malay words meaning forest person.

This is not the only attempted escape from Prague Zoo. In 2016, 18 northern bald ibises made their way to freedom when snow caused the net that kept them in their enclosure to collapse.

They were all recaptured within two weeks thanks to the help of the public over social media, who posted sightings with the hashtag #ibisdozoo. One died due to eating foreign objects.

The seal Gaston became famous in 2002 when he escaped during the 2002 floods. He swam all the way to Dresden and was recaptured, but died due to infection and exhaustion. A statue of him is now at the zoo, and the zoo’s restaurant is named after him.  

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