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In December 2021, after nine captive wolves managed to escape from their enclosure in a French zoo during visiting hours, four were shot dead and the remaining were recaptured. The Trois Vallées zoo in Montredon-Labessonnie, in southern France, was temporarily closed down after the incident.

The pack of captive wolves had recently been transferred to the zoo, but, naturally, being wild animals distressed by their captivity, they attempted to escape. They managed to break safety hatches and climbed a fence, but before they could leave the perimeter of the zoo they were shot by officials. The five survivors were anesthetised and locked up in the enclosures again. The Zoo temporary closure is to increase their security infrastructure to frustrate any future attempts to escape. Even if the animals don’t want to be at the zoo, paying visitors would demand to see them, so it seems the zoo operators want to be sure they can do so without any visitor being hurt by any distressed animal.

In a statement on its website, the zoo said that “At no time did these animals come into contact with or represent a threat to visitors or park officials.”. The statement also says that some of the wolves had to be shot by park staff due to their “abnormal and dangerous behaviour”. It seems that they expected that wolves would be very happy with their new home, and they would not show any wild wolf behaviour, so when they discover that was not the case they found that “abnormal”.

The zoo keeps 600 animals — including lions, monkeys and giraffes— captive in modern cages and fenced enclosures covering about 60 hectares. Barbara Pompili, France’s Minister of the Ecological Transition, forced the zoo to shut down last October citing concerns for animal welfare and staff safety, but the court overturned this decision a few days later — perhaps convinced that what happened last week would not happen.