Sacramento Zoo temporarily closes after bongo calf named Taylor Swift escapes

A bongo calf named Taylor Swift made a surprise exit from her enclosure Sunday at the Sacramento Zoo, prompting a quick response by staffers to corral the young antelope, whose species is critically endangered.

According to a zoo news release, the 1-year-old calf made her escape around 3:30 p.m. from the exhibit space she shares with her mother, Penny. Spokeswoman Laurel Vincent said in an email that the zoo was still working to determine what prompted the animal to flee or how she got out.

It also was unclear who first noticed the escape. “Initially we had a few conflicting visitor reports,” Vincent said. However, ”The confirmation came from a staff member who made a visual confirmation and used our emergency radios to alert all staff,” she said.

While some visitors were near the bongo exhibit when the escape was reported, Vincent said, there were no reports that the calf came into contact with any guests. Zoo staff secured the main gate and barred further public entry while visitors were escorted to a safe area at the front of the zoo according to emergency procedures, she said.

“Staff used baffle boards and tables to gently guide the calf down the pathway and up the back road to her off-exhibit holding area,” Vincent said, in an effort that took about 15 minutes.

Sacramento Zoo associate veterinarian Dr. Jenessa Gjeltema examined the bongo and found that she had a few scrapes but was otherwise unharmed and healthy. “She will be monitored closely off-exhibit, but we do not expect any further complications,” Vincent said.

Taylor was born at the zoo on Sept. 4, 2017, according to an announcement on the facility’s website.

“She was very swiftly on her feet after birth,” Vincent said, which is how the calf came to be named after the country-pop superstar. “Many of our staff are Taylor Swift fans,” Vincent said, so the name “seemed like a great fit.”

“In most cases we allow keepers to name the animals they care for and this was a staff decision,” she said.

The calf is an eastern bongo, an antelope species native to mountain forests in Kenya that is critically endangered by hunting as illegal logging reduces its habitat, according to the zoo. Only an estimated 200 eastern bongos still survive in the wild, officials say.

The Sacramento Zoo said it has participated for more than 20 years in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Eastern Bongo Species Survival Plan, which coordinates management of the species.

A recent report by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums noted the Sacramento Zoo’s commitment to conservation and species survival programs. While it noted that the animals at the zoo are healthy, it said that many exhibits are too small and outdated, and highlighted issues that could threaten future accreditation of the facility.

The zoo also recently announced that it is looking at moving from its 14-acre Land Park site to a larger location elsewhere in Sacramento. The potential project is still in the discussion stages, zoo officials said.

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