Friday Mar 24, 2023

Escape-artist zebra back at zoo after exploring South Korean capital

The zebra was photographed walking through Seoul.— AFP
The zebra was photographed walking through Seoul.— AFP

A zebra that escaped its pen and roamed freely for hours through the South Korean capital, captivating the internet and sparking thousands of memes, is safely back at the zoo, officials told AFP Friday.

Sero the zebra is back in his pen in a "stable condition, healthy and sound," an official at the Seoul Children's Grand Park said, after the animal spent three hours Thursday trotting along roads and dodging cars before he was finally cornered by park wardens.

Sero, aged 3, was caught using a safety fence after he entered a narrow alleyway and tranquilised, with photographs posted on social media showing him being transported, while sleeping, back to the zoo.

According to the zoo, Sero, who was born in 2019, was something of a "mummy's boy", and had previously been acting up.

He started behaving erratically after his parents died -- his mother in 2020 and his father just last year -- according to a video posted on the zoo's YouTube channel in January.

"He wouldn't return to his pen and he fought with a kangaroo," the video said.

His caretakers started hand-feeding him special snacks and fruit to try and stop him from "straying," it added -- an effort that failed.

His brief adventure on the streets of Seoul catapulted Sero to internet fame, spawning thousands of videos and memes on Korean-language social media platforms.

One video shows Sero walking calmly through a maze of cars waiting at a stop sign, as an eye-witness says: "Oh, he's handsome!"

Other social media users said his escape highlighted the plight of zoo animals.

"I cried after my mum said it could have been the first time for him to run in a long time," one Twitter user wrote.

A photograph of a delivery worker on a motorbike facing the zebra in a narrow alleyway went viral with a caption saying: "Did you order food?"