The death of a parent can be heartbreaking. For Sero the zebra, the loss even changed his personality, according to his zookeepers.
On Thursday, the male equine—born in 2021—was found trotting around the South Korean capital Seoul, shocking passersby. His escape from the Seoul Children’s Grand Park was widely reported in the country, as videos of Sero running down brick alleys and swerving cars on a busy road went viral on social media. After a three-hour chase, he was brought back to his pen.
But Sero wasn’t always this unruly, zoo officials said.
According to a video published by the zoo, the animal’s behavior began changing when Sero lost his parents in 2021 and 2022. He had tried to fight the kangaroo in the neighboring pen, kicking and head-butting the fence that divided them. Sero also began refusing to eat apples and carrots, food he loved.
Sero’s behavior after experiencing loss would not surprise animal researchers, who have found that animals are capable of experiencing grief and that it could manifest as changes to their appetite, sociability, sleep, and stress.
In 2018, researchers observed a mother killer whale carrying her dead calf for 17 days, trying to keep her decomposing newborn afloat. Horses, which are closely related to zebras, have been found to show signs of grief by vocalizing and searching for the missing horse. Another paper published in 2010 observed chimpanzees grieving infants by carrying their bodies, grooming the corpses and showing distress when they were separated.
Love and care from zookeepers seemed to help Sero make a recovery, the zoo said. So when he broke the wooden fencing around his enclosure and escaped on Thursday afternoon, he shocked zoo officials, newspaper the Korea Times reported.
After Sero was reported missing on Thursday afternoon, fire fighters, police officers, and zoo officials began searching for the zebra. He was spotted poking his nose in trash and galloping down pedestrian streets.
About three hours later, the equine was cornered by officials after he ran into a narrow alleyway. He was then tranquilized and taken back to the zoo in a truck. To prevent Sero from fleeing again, the zoo plans to get him a roommate—a female zebra, according to the Korea Times.
“We expect her to provide emotional stability to Sero next year,” an official told the outlet. Right now, Sero’s roomie-to-be is too young to join him.
His wooden fence will also be switched for a taller enclosure made of iron, the newspaper said. In 2005, Seoul Children’s Grand Park also dealt with six runaway elephants.
The animals were performing in the circus when one of them was startled and ran, leading five others to bolt with it. They broke into a restaurant and ate carrots, according to Australian broadcaster ABC.
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