The mystery surrounding the five lions that escaped from their enclosure at Taronga Zoo has been solved, after the zoo revealed the big cats were able to roam free due to a small gap in the fence.

Male lion Ato and 16-month-old cubs Khari, Luzuko, Malike and Zuri sent the Sydney zoo into lockdown last week after they got out of their enclosure.

The five lions were found in an area adjacent to the main exhibit and returned to their enclosure before the zoo opened to the public.

In a statement on Thursday, officials said that clamps used to join wire cables together had “failed”, leading to a cable unravelling to create a gap in the fence.

“Preliminary independent engineering advice has confirmed that swages (clamps that join wire cables together) failed, enabling a lacing cable that connects the fence mesh to a tension cable to unravel,” the statement read.

”The lions were then able to create and squeeze through a gap.”

The review into the incident found that the lions were “playing and interacting” with the fence for around 20 minutes before the gap formed.

While the lion and cubs took the opportunity to escape, “lioness Maya and one cub chose to remain in the exhibit”, according to officials, and were later called back into their dens by keepers.

While families who were camping at the zoo overnight were taken to a safe area by staff, other Taronga Zoo employees worked to bring the lions back safely and used vehicles to “monitor and control the situation”.

“This enabled keepers to use their relationships with the lions, as well as their training for such incidents, to calmly call the lions back to their exhibit, ensuring a peaceful and safe outcome for all people and animals,” the zoo said.

“The four other cubs and adult male lion appeared to remain calm and investigated the other side of the main containment fence, remaining within metres of their exhibit, before actively trying to find their way back under the fence.”

After the five lions escaped, two cubs then breached a second fence while trying to find access back into the exhibit, with one walking back to the exhibit without issue and the other needing to be tranquillised by vets and returned.

The zoo concluded the statement by saying the lions would “remain in an outdoor, back-of-house holding area pending specialist engineering advice”.

The ongoing review of the incident has recommended that the fence be investigated by an independent tensile-structure engineer, who would advise the zoo on how the clamps broke and how the fence can be fixed.

Image: Facebook

This article first appeared on OverSixty.