back to top

A Lion Escaped From This Ottawa-Area Zoo And Had To Be "Executed"

The Papanack Zoo blames human error for the lion's escape.

Posted on

A male African lion that escaped from the Papanack Zoo outside of Ottawa was "executed" on Sunday, according to police.

Papanack Park Zoo / Facebook

Officers showed up to the Papanack Zoo late Sunday afternoon and found the lion walking around outside the zoo's entrance.

"Due to a high risk to public safety and given the totality of circumstances, the adult male lion was executed by the zoo owner shortly before 5:30 p.m.," the Ontario Provincial Police said in a statement.

The Papanack Zoo announced the lion's death on Facebook.

Facebook: permalink.php

"The risk to the public of trying to sedate the lion was simply too high as the sedative takes too long too kick in and this would have put everyone at risk," owner Kerri Bayford wrote on the zoo's page.

Bayford blamed "human error" for why the lion was able to leave its enclosure. She also said the zoo is reviewing conditions for the large carnivore exhibits "to ensure that an incident such as this will not happen again."

A big cat has made it out of Papanack Zoo on at least one other occasion: In 2005 a tiger escaped.

The Ottawa-area zoo has been criticized for years for not being equipped to house exotic and dangerous animals.

Papanack Park Zoo / Facebook

Former employees who worked under previous management say the zoo had poor shelters for the animals, didn't provide proper food and water, and in one case left a dead water buffalo frozen in the snow for weeks.

The zoo's current owners say they have "worked tirelessly to improve the facility and living conditions of the animals" since taking over two years ago, and that staff are devastated by what happened.

Katie Hierlihy, who left Papanack in late 2011 and co-founded the Close Papanack Zoo Facebook page, said the problems at the zoo go beyond "human error" and show the facility needs to be closed.

"Not only would [the lion] have had to escape his own enclosure, he would have had to get past the perimeter fence around the zoo as well. So that’s two fences he would have had to get through to get to the front of the zoo.”

She also stressed that the problem goes well beyond this specific business.

“If people stop visiting places like roadside zoos, they’ll go out of business. But the bigger issue is that Ontario needs to step up and impose tougher regulations on this and have licensing and make sure the people running these places are qualified.”

Papanack Park Zoo / Facebook

“Ontario has no regulation over zoos," Hierlihy said. "Unless your municipality has a bylaw, there’s nothing that says you can’t get a tiger and call yourself a zoo.”

Papanack Zoo did not respond to BuzzFeed Canada's request for comment.

Ishmael N. Daro is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto. PGP fingerprint: 5A1D 9099 3497 DA4B

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.