Police called after pelican escapes from Edinburgh zoo

It was spotted roaming in Corstorphine.

A pelican was spotted roaming Corstorphine Hill yesterday evening after it escaped from Edinburgh Zoo.

Officials said the creature had flown over a fence, reportedly aided by a strong gust of wind.

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“We thought it was a swan,” said Laura Howarth, 47, who spotted the unfamiliar creature at around 7.30pm when on a walk with her son Ben, 15.

The pelican was spotted on Corstorphine Hill.The pelican was spotted on Corstorphine Hill.
The pelican was spotted on Corstorphine Hill.

“But we got nearer and nearer and we discovered it wasn’t a swan at all, it was a pelican. It was calm, so sweet and nice.”

Ms Howarth dialled 999.

“We didn’t know who you’re supposed to call when you find a pelican,” she explained.

Police forwarded the incident to Edinburgh Zoo, and a keeper rushed to the scene.

“He was in charge of the monkeys though, so he didn’t know how to pick up a pelican,” said Ms Howarth.

“But he phoned a friend, and managed it in the end.”

An officer was also dispatched from Police Scotland, and seemed ‘a bit gutted’ to discover that the pelican had already been safely recaptured when he arrived.

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“It was all very exciting,” said Ms Howarth, a secondary school teacher who was able to identify the animal due to a secret love of birdwatching.

“The pelican seemed really happy and placid and curious.”

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She added: “My son thought it was a great walk, to get an escaped pelican. He knows the Spike Milligan poem about a pelican, he had actually just been looking at it.

“Next time we’re out walking we’ll look for a wallaby.”

Darren McGarry, head of living collections at Edinburgh Zoo, said, “One of our pelicans managed to fly over a fence and wall on Saturday evening.

“She was returned safely from our car park by one of our keepers within thirty minutes, having also made her way to the hospital car park next door.

“It is rare for this to happen and would have been an unusual sight for anyone who saw her.

“Pelicans are calm birds so she would not have been a danger to the public.”

This is not the first time that a pelican has fled the zoo, although it is not known whether or not this is the same creature as the one which fled several years ago.

Other escapees in the last decade include a red panda, a Bateleur eagle and a scarlet ibis which evaded capture for six days.

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The largest of the runaways was a Heck cattle bull, which was on the loose for 40 minutes in 2012 while visitors were rushed indoors. The creature was eventually tranquillised by a team of keepers and vets.

A Barbary Macaque escaped in 2009 after an altercation with an older monkey, and was tracked to the roof of the Capital Hotel in Clermiston where he was shot with tranquilliser darts and brought back to the zoo.