'Jumped over their heads': Kangaroo escapes Ontario zoo during overnight stay
The search for a kangaroo that escaped an Ontario zoo while being offloaded from a transport truck will resume on Saturday morning, according to staff and volunteers.
The marsupial, one of two that were in the process of being transferred to a zoo in Quebec, escaped handlers from the Oshawa Zoo and Fun Farm on Thursday night.
“It jumped over their heads,” Cameron Preyde, an employee with the zoo, told CP24 on Friday. "We are in the process of tracking it down."
Preyde explained that the animal was only meant to be housed at the facility overnight.
“This is not our kangaroo,” he said. “It was just supposed to be a stopover, like a hotel room, on its way to Quebec.”
The animal first garnered widespread attention when a community-run pet group, Team Chelsea, shared a video of it hopping alongside Winchester Road, just about three kilometres south of the zoo, just after 7:45 a.m. Friday morning.
Durham police said the kangaroo spotting was reported to them around the same time but that responding officers were unable to locate the animal and cleared the scene.
“What I can tell you is that yesterday evening, a delivery driver en route to Quebec with two kangaroos made a pit stop at the Oshawa Zoo to let the kangaroos stretch their legs,” Sgt. Joanne Bortoluss said in an email to CTV News.
“Unfortunately, during this break, one of the kangaroos managed to escape and has been sighted multiple times today.”
At around 3 p.m., the kangaroo was found at a secondary location on Winchester Road. By this time, volunteers said they had received around 30 sightings of the animal.
Preyde told CP24 at the scene that further assistance was needed to recapture the kangaroo safely.
“Because I’m just a dude with a net and it’s a little faster than [me],” he said.
On Friday evening, volunteers and Oshawa Zoo staff made further attempts to wrangle the animal, but a CP24 reporter on the scene said it hopped away. The efforts had to be called off due to darkness and will resume in the morning.
Speaking to CP24 Friday afternoon, Toronto Zoo CEO Dolf DeJong said the cold weather could prove challenging for the kangaroo. At the time of publication, temperatures in the Toronto area hovered just above the freezing mark.
“On a day like today, at The Toronto Zoo, the kangaroos, the wallabies, would have a choice to go outside, but what we're concerned about, in this case, is prolonged exposure,” he said.
Interactions with humans or other animals, like coyotes, could also prove to be a risk, according to DeJong.
“Hopefully, search parties are going to be out and able to keep eyes on the animal,” he said.
Janet Grixti of Team Chelsea told The Canadian Press that the volunteer group has “people out there (who are) experienced that are trying to assist.”
However, she said the group "will not personally be securing the kangaroo."
When reached for comment, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry said it was not authorized to assist in the recovery of exotic animals but that it had put the Oshawa Zoo in touch with the Toronto Zoo in the hopes it could help.
CTV News Toronto has also inquired with the Ministry of the Solicitor General, which oversees Animal Welfare Services if it would be assisting in the efforts to recapture the animal but has not received a response.
Preyde, who has worked at the Oshawa Zoo for approximately three decades, said he’s never experienced anything like this before.
“Normally, we've got very good control over the animals,” he said. “This is just a one-off incident that really sucks.”
Police are asking anyone who sees the marsupial to stay away and instead contact Team Chelsea at 905-666-4676.
-With reporting by Abby O'Brien, CTV News Toronto Multi-Platform Writer