Motshegetsi the lion's daring zoo escape ends in death

Majo and Motshegetsi (Leipzig Zoo/Facebook)
Majo and Motshegetsi (Leipzig Zoo/Facebook)

Harambe the gorilla's been joined in animal heaven by a lion, Motshegetsi.

The year-old big cat was shot to death after escaping his enclosure at Germany's Leipzig Zoo on Thursday morning alongside another lion, called Majo.

The zoo was yet to open at the time so the public was not immediately in danger.

Majo was captured with the help of vehicles and a fence, but Motshegetsi was hit by a tranquiliser dart and became agitated, so was shot dead.

"This is a very, very sad ending, which I really would not have wished for," zoo director Joerg Junhold told local media. "Human safety always comes first."

Motshegetsi the lion's daring zoo escape ends in death

Motshegetsi, left, and Majo (AAP)

The Namibian-born pair only arrived at Leipzig Zoo in August. Mr Junhold said their escape "surprised all of us because the enclosure had been in operation for 15 years".

Motshegetsi's death comes four months after Harambe, a silverback gorilla, was shot dead at Cincinatti Zoo after a child fell into his enclosure.

His death was controversial, with many suggesting a tranquiliser dart would have sufficed. His legacy lives on in the form of internet memes, and has even made an appearance in the Invercargill mayoralty race.