A clouded leopard that appeared to have escaped from its enclosure at the Dallas Zoo after its fence was “intentionally cut” has been found, zoo officials said.
“She was located very near the original habitat, and teams were able to safely secure her just before 5:15 p.m.,” the zoo tweeted Friday, adding that the leopard was undergoing evaluation but appeared to be uninjured.
Dallas Zoo earlier Friday had issued a “code blue,” for a non-dangerous animal outside of its habitat.
“One of our clouded leopards was not in its habitat when the team arrived this morning and is unaccounted for at this time,” the zoo said in a statement on Twitter.
The Zoo is closed today due to a serious situation.— Dallas Zoo (@DallasZoo) January 13, 2023
The female leopard, named Nova, is believed to have escaped through a tear in the mesh around its enclosure, according to Harrison Edell, the executive vice president of animal care at the zoo.
Police and zoo officials believe the fence was “intentionally cut,” Dallas Police Sgt. Warren Mitchell said.
“It was their belief and it is our belief that this was an intentional act,” Mitchell told reporters during a Friday press briefing. “And so we have started a criminal investigation.”
No further details were shared on the investigation.
Luna, Nova’s sister, was still in the enclosure when zookeepers arrived Friday morning.
The leopards are about 4 years old, Edell said. Clouded leopards are a small species of leopard, only about 25 pounds, he added.
“She does not pose a threat to humans,” Edell said. “More likely than not, when she’s scared, she’s going to climb a tree, stay out of our way, hunt some squirrels and birds, and hope not to be noticed.”
The zoo said Dallas police were on the scene as they searched for the big cat.
“We are working under the assumption that she is still here and we’re going to continue to scan the zoo for her if she is still here,” Edell said during Friday’s briefing. “We’re committed to bringing her home.”
Clouded leopards are found in southeast Asia and China and males grow to be about 50 pounds, according to the Smithsonian Institute. Females only reach about 25 to 35 pounds. In the wild they eat monkeys, small deer and wild boars.
The zoo occupies 106 acres just south of downtown Dallas and has more than 400 species and 2,000 animals.