5 Of The Greatest Escape Artists Ever (Were Animals)

#2. The Bear and the Improvised Canoe

If Steve McQueen was a bear, he would be called Juan and he would live in a zoo in Berlin. In August 2004, Juan decided he'd had enough of life inside his enclosure and made the headlines for his impressive bid for freedom.

Maybe he just wanted a stiff beer and some bratwurst?

The combination of a moat and wall was supposed to make for an impassable barrier around Juan's home. What his keepers didn't take into account were the decorative logs floating around the moat. The adventurous bear looked out and saw what he thought of as a flotilla of rafts. Boarding one of the logs, he proceeded to paddle his way across the moat.

Security camera footage of the escape.

At that point it was just a matter of scaling up a wall, over a fence and heading for freedom. And by "freedom" we mean he headed right towards the kids' playground located near the bear exhibit. Hey, good job putting the merry-go-round next to the bears, zoo planners!

"Next, we'll put in a glass-bottom daycare right above the crocodile tank."

This led to one of two reactions from the parents: blind panic in an effort to remove their children from the vicinity of the bear, or ignoring their offspring completely while they snapped away trying to get the perfect shot of the intrepid escapee on their cell phones. Yes, that happened.

"Oh, and I got this video of the bear gnawing on little Hansel's skull. It's in 720p!"

Thirteen children were mauled to death. Ha, no, not really. This wouldn't be all that lighthearted of a story if so. Thanks to his mainly vegetarian menu, Juan found no temptation in the little children McNuggets running around the playground. Besides, he was too busy planning out the next phase of his escape.

What would that involve? Well, let's just say that this is not a Photoshop:

Sadly, keepers closed in and shot him full of tranquilizer darts before he could figure out how to work the pedals. The 242-pound bear was returned safely to his enclosure and they fished all of the logs out of his moat so he couldn't try it again. It was reported that a book of matches, a ball of string and a set of falsified documents were found hidden in his fur coat.

OK, that last part might be a lie.

#1. Ken Allen the Orangutan is Smarter Than All of Us

Despite sounding like the manager of your local grocery store, Ken Allen is in fact the closest thing to a superstar the orangutan kingdom has to offer. The orangutan minders knew they would have their work cut out for them right from the start, as Ken kept them on their toes by repeatedly unscrewing every nut and bolt he could find in the nursery. As Ken grew older, the zookeepers did their best to ensure his exhibit was escape proof.

However on June 13, 1985, the teenager showed them who the wiser primate was when he made his first successful bid for freedom and was found mingling happily with the crowd on the wrong side of his enclosure.


The keepers were baffled as to how he had gotten out. They knew he was good--he had previously been seen climbing a freaking ladder made from random materials found in his exhibit--but there was no evidence that any such device had been used this time.

So the zoo took every precaution they could think of--higher walls, smoother surfaces--to ensure there were no handholds available. They even introduced new females into the enclosure, hoping to turn his wanderlust into plain old dong-driven lust. But to no avail. With each new barrier placed in his way, Ken still managed to find his way out again and again.

Perhaps if the females had been orangutans...

They eventually put extra surveillance on him to try to figure out his method, but the smart bastard always knew when they were watching him (somehow). Staff actually had to go undercover, disguising themselves as tourists, hoping a gaudy shirt and wig would be enough to convince the orangutan that it was safe to make a break for it. Nothing doing. He always knew to wait until they were gone.

Once, he even used the surveillance to his advantage, when he enlisted the help of fellow orangutan Vicki after workmen left a crow bar in the exhibit. He looked over the tool, and threw it off to the side, as if disinterested. While the keepers had their eyes on him, Vicki picked up the crow bar and got busy prying open the molding between two glass panels.

A newly installed electric fence did keep him from getting all the way out, and staff figured this was the end of their escaping orangutan problems. Then, one day, they were doing work around the enclosure that meant they had to shut down the power. Somehow, Ken Allen knew. He went for it and, despite the wider moat and smoother walls built to contain him in such an event, he had no problems finding his way out--for the fifth time.

Life finds a way.

His escape attempts led to him becoming the zoo's most famous ape, with his own range of merchandise carried by the zoo shop. Great job by marketing spinning the "our animals are desperate to escape the hell that is our zoo" thing into a positive.

For more animals that need to be closely monitored, check out 5 Diabolical Animals That Out-Witted Humans. Or check out some humans that rival these animals, in 6 Insane Prison Escapes That Actually Happened.

And stop by Linkstorm (Updated 08.25.10) to see videos of Brockway trying to escape his dog cage.

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