A Leopard Just Escaped From A Major City Zoo

A cloud leopard escaped from the Dallas Zoo, prompting the popular attraction to be shut down for the day.

By Jennifer Asencio | Published

The Dallas Zoo made an alarming tweet earlier today as they discovered a leopard had escaped from its habitat on Friday morning. A massive search was underway all day Friday to locate the missing feline, named Nova, who was believed to be hiding somewhere on the zoo premises. The zoo was closed for the duration of the day to ensure public safety.

Nova is a clouded leopard, indigenous to the Himalayas and Southeast Asia, and is considered non-dangerous by the Dallas Zoo, according to its emergency alert. They believed the feline was hiding on the property because of how clouded leopards behave in the wild. The Dallas police department was called in to assist in the search.

Investigators found evidence that Nova’s cage had been deliberately cut, leading to her escape. However, zoo experts also knew that clouded leopards rest during the day and hide in trees to provide shelter and surprise prey. The cats are generally solitary nocturnal hunters, so it was a safe bet they would find Nova resting in the branches of a tree on the premises.

Fortunately, they were right, and the leopard was found safe and sound this evening. Overnight observation with the zoo’s onsite vet will confirm Nova is healthy, but so far she seems none the worse for wear after her adventure outside her habitat. She will soon be returned to her living space once the zoo has confirmed her health.

A clouded leopard resting in a tree

In 1938, Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant starred in the movie Bringing Up Baby, a madcap comedy about a wealthy lady who adopts a leopard. During the movie, a second leopard escapes from a nearby zoo, creating havoc as the humans cannot tell the wild zoo leopard from the gentle Baby. While Bringing Up Baby is a comedy classic, its events are better left on-screen rather than in real life, as transpired at the Dallas Zoo today.

It is also urgent to protect clouded leopards, as the United States has them on the endangered species list. This is because their furs are prized for coats and other luxury and medicinal items, and their habit is being encroached upon in countries like Malaysia and India. Bhutan, noted for its reverence of such predator cats and their tiger cousins, has set aside protected areas for clouded leopards in addition to the zoos around the world that host them, and poaching clouded leopards is illegal in several countries, including China, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, and Vietnam.

This makes it even more of a relief that Nova was found on the premises of the zoo, safe and unharmed. Had she escaped into the streets of Dallas she could have been harmed by any number of threats, both from humans and other animals, as well as tragically been responsible for harming anything she might have mistaken for food or prey, such as small animals and young children. Her safe return to her home with her siblings is good news for the Dallas Zoo as well as for her and her siblings, with whom she cohabitates.

Subscribe for Science News
Get More Real But Weird

Science News

Expect a confirmation email if you Subscribe.