The female clouded leopard Nova who escaped from her habitat at the Dallas zoo in the United States on Friday has been found. The animal was missing for six hours; a special “Code Blue” alert was issued.
Nova is around three to four years old and weighs 25 pounds. She was reported missing around 10 a.m. local time, prompting a “Code Blue” alert, informing all staff of a missing non-dangerous animal. She was found around her cage.
The zoo said in a social media post that they were thrilled they had found her: “Initial indications are she is not injured. She is being evaluated by our veterinary staff right now.”
Police and zoo staff searched the 106-acre (43-hectare) park for Nova, predicting that clouded leopards would stay close to home because of their territorial natures and the fence surrounding the park.
“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’s vice president for animal care, Harrison Edell, said earlier on Friday. Whether Nova was indeed found in a tree was not immediately clear.
Edell added that a second clouded leopard, Nova’s sister, did not escape.
Nova could escape because the fence of her cage had been cut. “It is our belief that this was an intentional act, so we have started a criminal investigation,” Warren Mitchell, Dallas police sergeant, said at a news conference. “The fence it escaped from was intentionally cut.”
Clouded leopards are in decline in the wild, where they inhabit dense forests in the Himalayas, Southeast Asia and South China mountains. Recent studies have shown that only around 10,000 clouded leopards remain in the wild. The animals are being threatened by habitat loss and poaching.
They can run at speeds of up to 40 miles (65 kilometres) per hour but never get the opportunity to do this when they are kept at zoos.