DENVER (CBS4)- People visiting the Denver Zoo on Wednesday were kept out of the Toyota Elephant Passage exhibit after a tapir escaped.
The tapir is making its new home at the Toyota Elephant Passage which recently opened to the public on June 1.
The tapir is named “Renny” and she was only out of her pen for five minutes. And zoo keepers said she really didn’t get escape but it was enough to cause a “Code Red.”
“Fortunately a keeper witnesses it and was able to respond very quickly,” said Denver Zoo spokeswoman Tiffany Barnhart.
Renny is four years old and weighs 884 pounds. She has been living at the Denver Zoo since November 2010.
What happened was at 10:08 a.m. a zoo keeper noticed Renny had gotten out of her fenced in enclosure and into another secondary fenced in space close to the rhinos.
“Certainly this is very disappointing. We are going to take it very seriously and take a look at the exhibit very thoroughly in the meantime. The tapirs are the smallest of the species that are in these yards. We are not at this point concerned about the rhinos or the elephants. However we are taking another look at the enclosure for the smaller species,” said Barnhart.
Renny was never in a spot where the public was mingling and zoo visitors were not in any danger. Zoo keepers said she actually seemed happy to get back inside her enclosure.
“She was able to open this gate, the tapir immediately went back in and within five minutes she was secured in her indoor enclosure,” said Barnhart.
Witnesses did tell CBS4 that they were advised not to move while zoo keepers located the large animal which looks like a cross between an elephant and a pig.
“They said, ‘Hurry, hurry, get into the reptile house an animal has escaped from it’s enclosure,’” said zoo visitor Nancy Rugger.
Rugger was visiting the zoo with another mother and a total of six children. They were locked in with the snakes.
“They were actually more afraid of the snakes than the loose animal,” said Rugger.
It’s unclear how the tapir escaped from Toyota Elephant Passage but it’s believed she may have squeezed through some cables.
A tapir is a large mammal with a short snout. Tapirs inhibit jungle and forest regions of South America, Central America and Southeast Asia.
Their are four species of tapirs and all are classified as endangered or vulnerable. Their closest relatives are the odd-toed ungulates, including horses and rhinoceroses.
“Tapirs are very smart animals but they are shy and would probably not seek out people,” said Barnhart. “She was pretty happy to see this gate open and run back in quickly.”