Missing Clouded Leopard Found Safe at Dallas Zoo; ongoing criminal investigation

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A clouded leopard that disappeared from its exhibit at the Dallas Zoo has been found safe after police said someone intentionally created a tear in its enclosure.

The zoo says the animal named Nova was found around 4:40 pm Friday at the zoo in a tree near its original habitat. Authorities say she was safe and did not appear to be injured, but she will be evaluated by a veterinarian.

Meanwhile, police say they are launching a criminal investigation surrounding the cat’s escape.

The zoo on Friday found a tear in the outer mesh surrounding the habitat. They say the tear is suspicious.

Authorities say it was difficult to find her because clouded leopards like to climb trees.

The Dallas Zoo is closed on Friday because of Nova’s escape. She is one of two 4-year-old clouded leopard sisters at the zoo.

Harrison Edell, the zoo’s vice president of animal care and conservation, said Nova was not in her habitat when staff checked on her in the morning. Caretakers discovered a tear in the enclosure’s mesh and worked on the assumption that the animal had escaped.

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Police say the violation appears to be intentional and have launched a criminal investigation.

“We know that the fence he escaped from was intentionally cut,” said Dallas Police Sgt. Warren Mitchell.

It was clear that this habitat failure was not an exposure failure and it was not zookeeper error,” said Dallas Zoo CEO Greg Hudson. “We are fully cooperating with the DPD and their active investigation into this.”

Police haven’t said much about why they believe the damage to Nova’s enclosure was intentional. At this time, there is no description of the suspect. Zoo officials say they turned over camera footage for research.

And while it’s unclear if anyone intended to take Nova, zoo officials have made it clear that no one should try to keep these animals as pets.

“We spend a lot of time interacting with our guests and trying to explain why wild animals are not pets,” Edell said. “This is not a pet. But there will always be people who are convinced they want to try.”

Edell said that clouded leopards are not like other leopards, and Nova was not a threat to humans.

Edell said that Nova is very attached to her sister and her territory, so she didn’t go too far.

The Irving Police Department assisted in the search with an infrared drone.

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Dallas Zoo | Courtesy: Kendall Jarman

FOX 4 viewer Kendall Jarman shared photos of some police officers in tactical gear at the entrance to the zoo. She tried to visit the zoo on Friday morning and was turned away before it opened.

The Dallas Zoo said it will provide another update on the animal’s condition on Saturday.

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