Who Freed Dallas Zoo’s Clouded Leopard? Cops Say Cat’s Enclosure Was Intentionally Breached

A clouded leopard who went missing from her enclosure was intentionally let loose according to police, who have opened a criminal investigation.

The medium-size wildcat, whose species is native to the foothills of the Himalayas, escaped from her enclosure some time between late Thursday night and Friday morning, prompting a zoo-wide shutdown and a massive coordinated search. During that time, zoo staff emphasized to local press — and in social media posts — that clouded leopards are not aggressive toward people and the escaped cat wasn’t a threat.

She was eventually found safe and unharmed on zoo grounds, hiding in a tree not far from her enclosure, at about 4:40 p.m. on Friday. She was secured within 35 minutes, zoo officials told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

But that’s not the end of the saga. Zoo staff say the leopard, a three-year-old named Nova, didn’t escape on her own — a person or persons breached the two-story exhibit by cutting through the mesh fence. Nova’s sister, Luna, lives in the same enclosure and did not leave the area.

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A clouded leopard. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Now investigators are trying to determine if the people responsible for breaching the enclosure were committing an act of vandalism or intended to take the 25-pound wildcat.

“We found a suspicious opening in the habitat wall in front of the exhibit,” a Dallas Zoo official told reporters on Friday afternoon. “It was clear that this opening was not exhibit failure and it wasn’t keeper error.”

Police are reviewing surveillance footage and looking for clues in the 106-acre zoological park, which is located about three miles south of downtown Dallas and is home to more than 2,000 animals.

“It is their (Dallas Zoo officials’) belief and it is our belief that this was an intentional act, so we have started a criminal investigation,” Sgt. Warren Mitchell of the Dallas Police Department said.

Harrison Edell, vice president of animal care and conservation at the Dallas Zoo, warned against anyone attempting to steal zoo animals.

“This is a cat of conservation concern,” Edell said. “This is not a pet — she’s a critically important member of our family at Dallas Zoo.”

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Clouded leopards diverged from a common ancestor shared with big cats, but typically don’t grow to more than 30 or 40 pounds. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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There are fewer than 10,000 clouded leopards left in the wild. In captivity, the wildcats live for 11 years on average. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

6 thoughts on “Who Freed Dallas Zoo’s Clouded Leopard? Cops Say Cat’s Enclosure Was Intentionally Breached”

  1. This could’ve ended so badly for the cat. My guess is the illegal exotic animal blackmarket wannabes were interrupted somehow. Or maybe she just took her own sweet time exiting (just like a cat!) they fled. Thankfully she was located and returned safely.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s exactly what I was thinking while they were searching for her. Knowing Texas, it would not have been surprising if someone tried to shoot her. I’m glad she’s okay.

      And yeah…let’s hope the person/people responsible are quickly caught and prosecuted.

      Liked by 2 people

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