Lions’ Escape Attempt at Changi Airport |

Lion escape SIA
Photo by Dobin Fernandes from Pexels

The Lion City certainly made headlines on Sunday (Dec 12) when two lions taking a Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight to an overseas facility broke free from their containers in the cargo area. In a cheeky move, one of the lions was seen lying atop its cage at one point.

Understandably, it caused a mild scare at Changi Airport when a “standoff” ensued, resulting in the pair being sedated using a tranquiliser gun by staff from the Mandai Wildlife Group (they’re recovering just fine).

At least the lions were nowhere near the public area of the airport, and the only ones in mild danger were the two sedated lions, who were sent to Singapore Zoo for recovery. Despite the drama, it was reported that SIA’s operations weren’t affected by their escape.

SIA assured everyone the lions had remained behind safety netting – which we assume is the kind that surrounds every air cargo container you see – the entire time they were “on the loose”.

image via ST

Apparently, the big cats were part of a travelling pride of seven lions being transported to an “overseas facility.” The airline didn’t address where the lions came from or where they were going due to “commercial sensitivity and confidentiality reasons,” prompting netizens to speculate the nature of their transport.

Lion speculation?

Some speculated that SIA was somehow involved in the illegal wildlife trade.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Southeast Asia is a hotbed for this trade, with Singapore serving as a major transit hub for illegal wildlife parts. While Singapore recently upped its penalties for trafficking illegal wildlife, it’s still not as harsh as other ASEAN nations.

Progress may be slow. SIA only stopped accepting lion bones as cargo since August 2018 (the airline was apparently responsible for transporting all “lion” bones out of South Africa and into Southeast Asia), and Singapore finally banned domestic ivory trade in September this year.

However, the lions in SIA’s latest cargo could also have been destined for a zoo, but if they were, SIA wouldn’t have a reason to be secretive about it. They could also have been sent to a circus – escaping lions seem apt in this case.

The last time 7 lions were transported by air was in May this year (via Qatar Airways), and it was to bring rescued lions from Ukraine to South Africa to be housed in their nature reserves.

For reference: netting used by Qatar Airways to transport lions from Ukraine to South Africa

So, who knows where those lions at Changi Airport came from or where they were supposed to end up in?

Jurassic Park-like escape

The big question is – how on earth did the lions manage to escape their cages?

This is not the first time Singapore’s had to deal with animals that have escaped enclosures. The Singapore Zoo has seen the escape of a jaguar in 2005, an African wild dog in 2014, as well as a hippo and a black panther in the 70s.

Even birds escaped: in 2006, masked lapwings that were kept in enclosures at the Singapore Zoo escaped when a fallen tree at the Pygmy Hippo enclosure left a gap, giving them the chance to escape. This scenario gives us Jurassic World vibes, but with less-menacing flying creatures: the lapwings were recently spotted in various green spaces across Singapore (some were seen with chicks).