A curious koala escaped its enclosure at the San Diego Zoo Tuesday, spurring a search and eventual stakeout by keepers, zoo officials confirmed.
According to Jenny Mehlow, public relations spokesperson for the San Diego Zoo, the koala – named "Mundu" – somehow made his way out of his habitat. When zookeepers noticed the koala was missing, a search ensued.
Mehlow said keepers eventually found the koala high above in a tree outside the exhibit.
Mehlow said the koala appeared to be in good condition. As of 1 p.m., zookeepers were maintaining a close eye on the animal and planned to wait until the zoo closed for the day to lure him down from the tree. The zoo was set to close at 5 p.m.
By 5:45 p.m., zoo officials said Mundu was back in his exhibit, safe and sound.
Mehlow said Mundu was born in 2012 and is just entering the curious phase of his young life.
Though the zoo’s koala exhibit features a live “Koala Cam,” the camera did not capture Mundu’s escape, Mehlow said.
Ted Molter, spokesperson for the San Diego Zoo, said Mundu may have grabbed a branch just outside the exhibit and quietly swung his way out.
“He was born in 2012 so he was just recently weaned from his mom and as a young male with spring time coming he's becoming very much aware of being a young male so that sent him into a little bit of exploration mode," Molter explained.
The koala exhibit, dubbed the Conrad Prebys Australian Outback, opened in May 2013 with 21 koalas. The exhibit spans three acres and is also home to other marsupial species including wallabies, wombats and short-beaked echidna.
The koala harem yards at the Conrad Prebys Australian Outback allow visitors to get close to the animals and watch the marsupials as they sunbathe, nap and eat while perched in the trees.
The San Diego Zoo has had a long-standing koala program and currently boasts the largest breeding colony of Queensland koalas outside of Australia.
This koala escape isn’t the first mishap involving a wayward animal at the San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
In June 2013, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park asked for the public’s help to find a painted stork that got swept up in a wind gust and flew off zoo grounds.
In March 2013, two striped hyenas were able to get past one of the barriers inside their enclosure at the zoo, temporarily escaping. In that instance, the zoo was placed on lockdown until the hyenas were found by keepers.