By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: February 4, 2010
Filed at 9:32 p.m. ET
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- Three cheetahs swam a moat and crawled through a hole in a rusty fence to escape their enclosure and then briefly roamed inside a wildlife park in New Zealand.
Orana Wildlife Park rushed visitors to a secure area while rangers rounded up the big cats Thursday, park chief executive Lynn Anderson said Friday.
''Our cheetahs, just like a domestic house cat, they all hate swimming, so if you had asked me yesterday would any of our cheetahs swim I would have said no,'' Anderson told National Radio. ''They proved us quite wrong.''
The cats, three youngsters who had been bred at the park, crawled through a fence hole that was exposed recently when greenery was cut back, she said. The breakout at the park near Christchurch lasted about a half hour.
The whole fence around the cheetahs' enclosure will be replaced, Anderson said.
Lucy Tame, a 25-year-old park visitor, said she and her mother took photographs as the three cats made their escape shortly after midday.
''We saw them sitting in their enclosure and they decided to go for a bit of a swim, one, two, three,'' she said. After climbing through the hole in the fence, the cats ran in front of a park shuttle bus, causing the driver to jam on his brakes, she said.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org