Fact Check

Did Zoo Animals Escape During George Floyd Protests?

Tigers, giraffes, and hippos, oh my!

Published Jun 1, 2020

 (Wikimedia Commons/S. Taheri (CC BY-SA 2.5))
Image Via Wikimedia Commons/S. Taheri (CC BY-SA 2.5)
Photographs show tigers, hippos, and giraffes that escaped from various zoos during widespread protests in May 2020.

Rumors are surging in the wake of George Floyd's death and resulting protests against police violence and racial injustice in the United States. Stay informed. Read our special coverage, contribute to support our mission, and submit any tips or claims you see here.

In May 2020, as several cities saw large protests against police violence and racial injustice, a series of rumors started to circulate online holding that wild animals had escaped from various local zoos.

First, there was the claim that a tiger had escaped from a zoo in Oakland, California. The Alameda County Sheriff's office even posted a tweet asking citizens to call 911 after they encountered reports about a tiger on the loose from the facility:

The sheriff's department later clarified this was just a rumor, and that all of the tigers at the Oakland Zoo were accounted for:

Later, a similar rumor circulated on social media about a hippopotamus that supposedly escaped from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago:

Although the above-displayed image is real, it was not taken in Chicago in May 2020. This photograph actually shows a hippo that escaped a traveling circus in Spain in 2016. La Razon reported that, with the exception of some traffic delays, local authorities and circus workers were able to recapture the animal without incident.

A third rumor suggested a giraffe was spotted running down the road in Minnesota:

Again, although these images are real, the photographs were not taken in Minnesota in May 2020. We haven't been able to pinpoint exactly where they were taken, but they have both been on the internet since at least 2013 and likely show giraffes at a safari park.

In sum, the protests against police violence and racial injustice in May 2020 did not result in a tiger escaping from a zoo in Oakland, a hippo escaping from a zoo in Chicago, nor a giraffe escaping from a zoo in Minnesota. As of this writing, we have not come across any credible reports of zoo animals escaping during these protests.


La Razon.   "Un Hipopótamo, De Paseo Por Palos de la Frontera Tras Escaparse Del Circo."     5 April 2016.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

Article Tags