With its long neck, round torso, tail feathers and lumbering gait, the huge creature being chased around a Thai zoo by net-wielding veterinarians appears to be an ostrich.
But when cornered by its pursuers, the strange beast’s true nature is revealed – and the clue is in its black sneakers.
This is a grown man, in full ostrich costume, and his job is to help train staff at Chiang Mai Zoo on how to respond if an animal escapes.
Videos shared by the zoo with CNN show the staff member getting ready for his big role; his face is smeared with white paint, his arms are tucked into a giant ball of cloth and a fake ostrich head is buckled to the top of his long “neck.”
The bizarre ensuing scene, in which he was chased around the zoo’s Africa Zone on Tuesday, wouldn’t have looked out of place on a TV show or in an avant garde play, but it was actually part of an annual drill meant to simulate an escape.
The purpose of the exercise was “to build readiness enabling real situation management, and to prepare measures for when animals escape,” said the zoo in a statement on Facebook.
The scenario triggered “a report system … down through the chain of command” and required veterinarian and staff teams to “control the area in order to capture and return the ostrich to its enclosure,” it added.
The drill also gave a chuckle to staff members, some of whom can be heard laughing loudly in the video as the man-ostrich “escapes” and wanders around the zoo, bobbing his body up and down to imitate the ostrich’s gait.
Others, meanwhile, give chase with handheld nets. When their target is finally cornered, with the help of a giant net used to block off his path, they place a hood over its head and lead it back to its enclosure with wide grins on their faces.
Previous iterations of the drill have been just as colorful. In 2019, a “kangaroo” that jumped out of its enclosure was in fact a staff member wearing a onesie and red boxing gloves.
Top image: An employee at the Chiang Mai Zoo in Thailand dresses as an ostrich during an annual practice drill for handling escaped animals. Credit: Chiang Mai Zoo