Dallas Zoo: Clouded leopard still missing, ‘suspicious’ breach found in habitat

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DALLAS (KXAN) — The Dallas Zoo closed Friday as it worked to find a clouded leopard that went missing from its habitat. Zoo officials said they discovered a “suspicious” breach at the front of the habitat while investigating.

The opening isn’t believed to be because of habitat failure. The fence was intentionally cut, Warren Mitchell with the Dallas Police Department said.

“It is our belief that this was an intentional act,” Mitchell said.

The zoo said it’s a “non-dangerous” animal, and Dallas police are helping with the search. It said it was a “serious situation.”

The clouded leopard exhibit is on the northeast side of the zoo, between the tamarin and primate areas. The zoo said when staff arrived in the morning, they couldn’t find two leopard sisters and triggered a “Code Blue.” One of them was found and is safe. Officials were working to review security cameras to see where the other may have gone, Edell said.

The Dallas Zoo told Dallas NBC station KXAS the missing leopard is named Nova.

Clouded leopards can be found in the cloud forests in Southeast Asia and have a “vulnerable” conservation status, according to the Smithsonian National Zoo, which also has a clouded leopard habitat. Male clouded leopards weigh up to 50 pounds, while females are usually 25 to 35 pounds, it said. The zoo said Nova is about 25 pounds.

This picture taken on September 3, 2013 shows a clouded leopard, believed from Southeast Asia, at the Taipei city zoo. (Mandy Cheng/AFP via Getty Images)

Each morning and throughout the day, zoo staff do a headcount of the animals, Edell said. He added they determined the leopards escaped through a tear in the mesh of the habitat.

If the leopard is still on zoo property, officials believe it is likely hiding in the trees close to her habitat. Given that the leopard is likely near the habitat if it’s still on-site, officials plan to reopen portions of the zoo Saturday.

In 2017, a jaguar escaped from the Abilene Zoo, KRBC reported. The zoo later discovered the cat, named Estrella, had pushed up on the netting and cable at the top of the exhibit and managed to get into a crawl space behind it, before climbing another wall and finding another gap in the netting. The zoo inspected the exhibit and made changes before putting the jaguars back.

In February 2021, the Dallas Zoo sent out an alert for another animal: a pied crow named Onyx that flew away during a training session in its free-flighted bird show. The Zoo said in an April tweet Onyx still hadn’t been found.

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