what you should Know
- The Dallas Zoo discovered Nova, a clouded leopard, was missing from her habitat Friday morning.
- Clouded leopards are small cats, about the size of a medium-sized dog and weighing about 30 pounds.
- The zoo is closed while the search for Nova continues. Zoo officials believe the animal is still in the zoo.
Dallas Police are helping search the Dallas Zoo Friday for a missing murky leopard, a small cat that doesn’t pose a threat to humans that escaped from its habitat overnight.
The Dallas Zoo posted on social media Friday morning that the zoo was closed due to a serious situation — a code blue that indicates a non-threatening animal is out of its habitat.
“One of our clouded leopards was not in its habitat when the team arrived this morning and is currently missing,” the zoo said in a statement. “The zoo is closed today as our teams work to locate and recover the animal.”
The zoo identified the missing clouded leopard as Nova and said she escaped from her habitat through a tear in the mesh enclosure she shares with her sister Luna. Both cats were brought to the Dallas Zoo in 2021 after being bred at the Houston Zoo. according to our partners at The Dallas Morning News.
Harrison Edel, vice president of animal care at the Dallas Zoo, said Friday morning that clouded leopards are dramatically different animals than other leopards. They are much smaller, weigh about 30 kilograms and do not pose a danger to humans.
Edel said that while Nova may be scared, she most likely climbed a tree to stay out of the way, catch squirrels and birds, and hope not to be spotted.
Since it’s winter and there are far fewer leaves on the trees, Edel said that should make Nova easier to find. While officials look at the trees from the ground using binoculars, clouded leopards are very good at staying hidden. He added that Dallas police are helping the search by scanning the treetops with drones equipped with infrared technology.
The zoo said it believes Nova is still inside the zoo and hiding. The leopard cloud habitat is in Primate Place, in the northwest part of the zoo, north of Clarendon Drive.
If anyone near the zoo spots a cat that is larger than a house cat and smaller than a lynx, they are encouraged to call the police. Although the animal is not a threat to humans, it is still a wild animal and people should not attempt to capture it themselves.
The zoo is closed Friday while the search for the animal continues.
WHAT IS A CLOUDED LEOPARD?
According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the Institute of Conservation Biology, clouded leopards are native to Southeast Asia and are a vulnerable species. Male cats weigh up to 50 pounds, while females are smaller and weigh 25-35 pounds.
Cats have large paws and are very adept at climbing and are one of the few animals that can descend trees head first.
“Clouded leopards are not a ‘species’ of leopard as their name suggests. They are a separate species of wild cat, like snow leopards and leopards,” the Smithsonian reports.
Cats are carnivores that stalk their prey from trees and attack from above. The Smithsonian said the clouded leopard will eat gibbons, macaques, slow lorises, small deer and wild boar.
According to a Dallas Zoo mapgibbon habitat is adjacent to clouded leopard habitat.
They are mostly nocturnal and have an average lifespan of 12-15 years. With human care, cats can live 17 years, the Smithsonian said.
DALLAS ZOO ANIMAL ESCAPE PAST
In 2004, a 13-year-old gorilla named Jabari scaled a 14-foot wall and injured four people before being shot dead by Dallas police. After this incident, the zoo increased security measures at the exhibit.
In 2010, Tufani the gorilla escaped her locked living quarters and was spotted by a zookeeper preparing food behind a closed door. The zoo tranquilized Tufani and returned her to her living area within an hour. No injuries were reported.
In 2011, Coco, a chimpanzee at the Dallas Zoo, was sedated after briefly escaping from its enclosure. The animal remained in a place not accessible to the public. No injuries were reported.
Two weeks after Coco’s escape, also in 2011, a spider monkey briefly escaped from his enclosure and was at the top of its habitat for about half an hour. Zoo officials said at the time that the animal had in fact “come out of its bedroom but is still in the house.” The spider monkey’s escape is attributed to human error. No injuries were reported.
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