The Dallas Zoo has found a clouded leopard that appeared to have escaped after its fence was “intentionally cut,” according to zoo officials.
The animal was discovered on the zoo grounds around 4:40 p.m. local time, according to the zoo, which had been closed due to the missing resident on Friday.
“She was found very close to her original habitat, and teams were able to safely secure her just before 5:15 p.m.,” the zoo said in a tweet Friday.
The Dallas Zoo had issued a “code blue” earlier Friday for a non-dangerous animal outside of its habitat.
“One of our clouded leopards was not in its habitat when the team arrived this morning and is currently unaccounted for,” the zoo said in a tweet.
According to Harrison Edell, the zoo’s executive vice president of animal care, the female leopard, named Nova, is believed to have escaped through a tear in the mesh surrounding its enclosure.
Dallas Police Sgt. Warren Mitchell said the fence was “intentionally cut” by police and zoo officials.
“It was their belief, and it is our belief, that this was an intentional act,” Mitchell told reporters at a press conference on Friday. “As a result, we’ve launched a criminal investigation.”
There were no further details released about the investigation.
When zookeepers arrived Friday morning, Luna, Nova’s sister, was still inside the enclosure.
Edell estimates that the leopards are about 4 years old. Clouded leopards are a small species of leopard, weighing only about 25 pounds, according to him.
“She is not a threat to humans,” Edell stated. “When she’s scared, she’ll probably climb a tree, stay out of our way, hunt some squirrels and birds, and hope she doesn’t get noticed.”