Wellington Zoo has identified five animals it would shoot-to-kill should they escape if a natural disaster struck the city.
The revelation was prompted by the zoo's neighbours in the suburb of Newtown, following the Christchurch earthquake.
The zoo's 12 endangered chimpanzees top the list of animals deemed so dangerous they would need to be shot and killed should they escape.
"They're intelligent enough to know what they can do and it's just a bit of fun [for them to maim people]," the zoo's chief executive Karen Fifield told Radio New Zealand.
"It's a bit like having the strength of the adults but the intelligence of a five-year-old."
African lions, Asian tigers, African wild dogs and Malayan sun bears round off the list.
A ranger who is trained to use firearms is on call 24/7 in case of an emergency.
The shoot-to-kill policy is common at zoos around the world, Ms Fifield said, as shooting to maim is deemed cruel and tranquilisers are slow to take effect.
Wellington Zoo has had to employ the policy in the past; In 1967 two tigers were shot dead after they escaped and roamed Newtown for several hours at night.
- NZ Herald staff