A 25-pound (11.3-kg) clouded leopard escaped its habitat at the Dallas zoo on Friday, prompting officials to shut down the park and issue a “Code Blue” alert, although they assured nearby residents that the big cat was not dangerous.
Zoo staff were searching the 106-acre (43-hectare) grounds for the escapee, saying the feline, a 3- to 4-year-old female, was unlikely to have left the property entirely because of a perimeter fence and the territorial nature of cats.
“She does not pose a danger to humans,” Harrison Edell, the zoo’s vice president for animal care and conservation, told reporters at a news conference.
“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,” Edell said.
The clouded leopard, one of two sisters kept at the Dallas Zoo, was noticed missing at mid-morning. The “Code Blue” alert notifies all staff that a non-dangerous animal is missing.
Edell said it unknown exactly when the cat made its getaway, but she appeared to have slipped through a tear in mesh surrounding the enclosure sometime overnight. The second clouded leopard did not escape, he said.
He said it was not clear how the mesh became torn but said it was too to say if there was any human involvement.
Clouded leopards, so-called because of their cloud-like fur patterns, are in a decline in the wild and inhabit dense forests in the foothills of the Himalayas, Southeast Asia and South China.
Zoo officials said that while the clouded leopard would probably be found on the property, local residents should be on the lookout for a very large cat.
“She’s still got a full complement of claws and teeth,” Edell said. “We don’t want anyone trying to grab her. She’s not a house cat, this is still a wild animal. But any photos or tips would be helpful.”