As long as humans have confined animals, reluctant captives have found ways to free themselves. Sometimes these escapes end safely, with animals quickly and quietly dismissed, and sometimes they cause havoc. Some animals gain lasting freedom, but sometimes these animal escapes end in tragedy. From leopards on the run in China to zebras roaming free in the “savannah” of Maryland, here are 8 of the craziest animal escapes of 2021.
Leopards escape from Chinese zoo
In April, three leopards (Panthera pardus) escaped while their enclosure was being cleaned at Hangzhou Safari Park in eastern China. Manipulators shot the first leopard with a tranquilizer two days later, the second leopard was caught with an injured hind leg after being on the run for over a month and the third leopard showed no intention of returning . Chinese authorities sent 1,700 people and nearly 1,000 drones to hunt down the third leopard to no avail, even releasing around 100 chickens as live bait.
Meanwhile, residents living near the park received a warning message: “Leopard tracks have been found near mountain villages. The police are looking. Everyone, please close the doors and windows securely and do not go out. The keeper reported at the time. No media reported whether the leopard was captured, but it is unlikely that he survived as he never learned to hunt for himself in the zoo.
Read more: After Chinese zoo covered up leopard leak, 100 chickens hunt for big cat
Zebras go wild in Maryland
Three Zebras fled an exotic Maryland animal farm in August and spent months on the run, occasionally spotted by locals. In September, county officials found one of the zebras dead in an illegal snare trap. The other two zebras roamed freely in Prince George County until they were finally caught in December, NPR reported.
County officials did not give details of how they rounded up the striped equines, but their capture did not involve the US Department of Agriculture or Prince George County Animal Services. The zebra owner was charged with three counts of animal cruelty in October, NPR reported.
Related: On the Lam: 10 of the greatest animal escape artists
Florida sharks escape toxic algae
In August, Florida sharks had to flee their coastal waters to escape a poisonous seaweed Flowering. Sharks, which included cap sharks (Sphyrne tiburo), black tip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus), nurse sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum) and lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris), moved into canals where local residents filmed them and shared the footage online.
Experts believe sharks used the canals to avoid the red tide – the common name for Karenia brevis, a type of algae along the Florida coast that releases a neurotoxin and causes widespread damage to the marine ecosystem there.
Read more: Sharks hide in Florida canal to escape toxic red tide sweeping coast
Tiger in the Houston neighborhood
In May, a video widely shared on social media showed a youngster tiger (Panthera tigris) roaming around a neighborhood in Houston, Texas. The tiger was wearing a collar and was brought inside a house by its alleged owner, Victor Hugo Cuevas, who then allegedly fled the scene with the tiger when police arrived. ABC News reported. Hugo Cuevas was taken into custody the next day but no tiger was found.
After missing for nearly a week, the nine-month-old tiger named India was handed over to the police by Hugo Cuevas’ wife Giorgiana. Hugo Cuevas was on bail for murder when India went missing. His lawyer denied that Hugo Cuevas was the owner, but said he helped take care of the big cat, BBC News reported. India the Tiger has found a new home at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, a wildlife sanctuary in Texas.
Related: Outrageous owners of ‘Tiger King’ zoo say they are helping tigers. Conservation experts disagree.
Camels in the streets
A camel abandoned a Kansas nursery in December and fled on a freeway. The camel was safely captured by the Bonner Springs Police Department and animal control officers, but not before chasing the rogue camel through golf courses in golf carts, ABC7 Eyewitness News reported.
It wasn’t the first camel ride of the year. In November, eight camels and a llama made it out of a circus in Italy. Camels and llamas roamed the streets of Madrid until they were safely gathered, The independent, reported a UK newspaper online. The circus claimed the animals were released voluntarily in an act of sabotage and pointed to animal rights activists. Anecdote: a group of camels is called a “caravan”, according to Initiated.
Related: Do camels really have water in the hump?
Aries on the run
A New Zealand district council posted a wanted Facebook post on June 16 – for a ram. The sheep “pulled the wool” over their eyes after escaping from the council pound in New Plymouth, according to the Facebook post.
The council first captured the ram after complaining that it was trying to lead walkers on a town path, the New Zealand media company Reported things. The ram was believed to be a pet named Duggy. Stuff posted an update on the runaway ram on July 1. It was not known where he was at the time and he has not been picked up by the district council since.
Related: Overgrown “Baarack” sheep gets epic quarantine haircut, loses 78 pounds. tangled wool
The cow glides towards freedom
A cow destined for slaughter escaped a Brazilian ranch in November and ended up at a nearby water park, where she was filmed descending a waterslide, the New York Post reported. The cow does not seem comfortable or particularly stable on the waterslide in the Youtube video published by Diário da Região, a Brazilian newspaper. However, the trip saved the cow’s life as the owner decided to keep her as a pet, according to the Orlando Radio Station. 101.1 WJRR.
The Brazilian cow was one of many cattle destined for the slaughterhouse to seek freedom in 2021. A herd of cattle escaped from a slaughterhouse in Pico Rivera, Calif., In June on Los Angeles Times reported. Someone accidentally left the slaughterhouse door open and cattle ran free through the streets of Pico Rivera before heading towards a residential area. They were all captured except for one cow which was shot by a sheriff’s deputy after charging a family.
Related: This 20-inch tall cow may be the smallest on Earth
Cobra in North Carolina
A private cobra made its way out of a house in Raleigh, North Carolina, and fled for three days in July. Police began the search after being called by a citizen who spotted the black and white snake on a porch. The snake was missing by the time police arrived, but they identified it from photos and videos as a zebra cobra (Naja nigricincta nigricincta), a species of spitting cobra from southern Africa, The Washington Post reported. Much to the relief of local residents, authorities captured the snake using glue traps or glue-coated boards. The experts then restrained and removed the striped snake, ABC11 Eyewitness News reported.
Related: It turns out that most cobras are cannibals
Honorable mention: China’s Internet Elephants
Perhaps the most famous animal adventure of 2021 is the story of the Yunnan elephants. Technically not an escape, the Asian elephants have left their nature reserve in China, which they are free to do, but have traveled an extraordinary distance of over 500 kilometers through China’s Yunnan province. Authorities have been monitoring the elephants around the clock and they have become an internet sensation in China, with millions of people tapping into live streams to watch them.
Scientists do not know why the elephants left their nature reserve. Some experts suggest this is due to the decrease in rainforest habitat while others believe the herd simply got lost. The elephants finally returned home in September after a journey that lasted around 18 months, China daily, reported a newspaper run by the Communist Party of China.
Read more: Baby elephant abandoned by internet famous herd has been rescued
Originally posted on Live Science.