The zoo announced that when keepers arrived at the clouded leopard’s habitat on Friday, one of the animals was nowhere to be found.
A “Code Blue” situation was activated and Dallas police are now helping to search the zoo for the “non-dangerous” animal, whose name is Nova.
Zoo officials took to Twitter and called the incident a “serious situation”, but say they believe the small cat is still on the grounds.
“We have an ongoing situation at the Zoo right now with a Code Blue – that is a non-dangerous animal that is out of its habitat. One of our clouded leopards was not in its habitat when the team arrived this morning and is unaccounted for at this time,” the zoo tweeted. “Dallas PD is onsite assisting with the search efforts. The Zoo is closed today as our teams work to find and recover the animal. Given the nature of these animals, we believe the animal is still on grounds and hiding. We will share updates and more information as soon as we can.”
They added: “Our focus right now is on locating the animal.”
Zoo officials told reporters that the clouded leopard weighs around 25 pounds, is four-years-old, and poses no threat to humans.
Both of the zoo’s clouded leopards were accounted for at 1am by security staff, the zoo says. Now, they say they have located a rip in the enclosure’s mesh that the cat used to slip out.
The cat was discovered missing during the zoo’s daily morning headcount by staff.
“A leopard and a clouded leopard are dramatically different animals,” zoo executive vice-president Harrison Edell told reporters at a press conference. “Even though this is a small cat and not a tiger or a lion, she still has a full complement of claws and teeth. This is not a house cat. They are absolutely not a danger to humans though. If anything she is real nervous and afraid of people. She is accustomed to people but she s not tame, she is more likely to avoid people than challenge them.”
Clouded leopards are found in southeast Asia and China and males grow to be about 50 pounds, says the Smithsonian Institute.
Females only reach about 25 to 35 pounds and in the wild they eat monkeys, small deer and wild boars.
The cats have large paws, are skilled at climbing and one of the few animals that can climb down trees headfirst.
“Clouded leopards are not a ‘type’ of leopard as their name implies. They are a separate species of wild cat, as are snow leopards and leopards,” the Smithsonian states.