SEOUL, South Korea — A young lonely zebra had a rare day out when he ran away from a zoo in Seoul and trotted around the streets of the South Korean capital, before being sedated and captured a few hours later.
Sero, a 3-year-old male whose Korean name refers to his vertical stripes, escaped from the Seoul Children’s Grand Park zoo Thursday afternoon by breaking through the wooden deck around his enclosure, according to zoo officials.
In the hours that followed, Sero ran amok in a nearby residential area in eastern Seoul as people looked on in shock. Social media was instantly flooded with photos and videos of the zebra bumping into traffic and galloping through narrow alleyways.
“Watching a video of Sero in the middle of traffic, I was so moved that the drivers were being so careful with our Sero,” Cho Kyung-wook, the head of the animal welfare department at the zoo, told NBC News in a telephone interview Friday.
After Sero was reported missing from the zoo around 3 p.m. local time (2 a.m. Thursday ET), zoo officials, firefighters and police officers began a wild chase across the busy streets of the densely populated city of about 10 million people.
The zebra was eventually cornered and felled by a tranquilizer dart, after which he was brought home safely around 6 p.m. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage to property.
Cho said Sero’s behavior had changed after the loss of both his parents in the last two years, leaving him alone in his enclosure.
“Sero’s misbehaving started especially after losing his dad” last year, she said. “He would refuse to return to his pen and ignore the callings of his handlers.”
Sero, who Cho said has a curious personality, would peek through the fence at the kangaroo family next door, that didn’t exactly take him in.
“There was nothing major, but from time to time Sero would be bitten by the kangaroos,” Cho said.
Zoo officials have tried to ease Sero’s apparent loneliness to some success. Before his city adventure, the zebra’s relationship with his handler had been improving as she plied him with apples, carrots, sweet potatoes and other special treats.
But food can only do so much. So the zoo has another plan in the works for Sero: a girlfriend.
As soon as the other zebra turns 3 next year, she will join Sero from another South Korean zoo.
“The lesson we have learned from Sero’s escape is that we need to expedite the remodeling of the zoo as soon as possible,” Cho said. “We have a very old zoo and a lot needs fixing, including better security.”