Racoons called Turpin and Bandit are on the loose after sneaking out of Drusillas zoo.
The Alfriston zoo is appealing for information about the animals, which absconded on Friday (April 26).
Staff discovered two of the four resident racoons were missing during their early morning checks. Turpin and Bandit have not been sighted since and remain at large.
The racoons had moved to a shared enclosure with the coatis at the beginning of March and although the introductions went very well, they were still adjusting to their new surroundings.
Although it is not clear exactly what happened, it is thought that they may have been spooked by a noise or unexpected movement leading them to flee up the perimeter fence and through the electric deterrent, explained a zoo spokesperson.
Zoo manager Sue Woodgate said, “Incidents of this nature happen very rarely at the zoo but when they do, it is clearly a worrying time.
“The keepers have been scouring the park and surrounding area but we are appealing to the public to be vigilant too. We are very keen to reunite Turpin and Bandit with the group as quickly as possible.”
Racoons have a black stripe across their face which resembles a robber’s mask and a large bushy black and white ringed tail. They could be mistaken for a badger at first glance.
Keepers say Turpin and Bandit will be able to survive on their own for some time; they eat a variety of foods including fruits, berries, nuts, grass, insects and small mammals and are opportunistic scavengers.
The biggest threat they currently face is from motorists.
The zoo team also believe that the pair will not stray far and are likely to be hiding in nearby trees or shrubbery. They are asking dog walkers, ramblers and local residents to be on the look out for any telltale signs of their whereabouts, such as bird feathers, food remains and faeces.
They are most likely to be active at dawn and dusk.
Sue added, “I would like to emphasise that there is no danger to the public. They are generally non-aggressive and the group come into close contact with the public on a daily basis as part of our Keeper for the Day scheme and Close Encounter Animal Experiences.
“However, if you do come across the racoons we would ask that you do not approach them. This may scare them further afield or they may become stressed if cornered.
“Instead please contact the zoo keepers as soon as possible, who have been trained to recover the animals safely.”
Drusillas Park is offering a family ticket for four as a reward for any information that leads to the successful recovery of the animals. Please phone 01323 874100 or 07940 483815 if you think you know something that may help.