Animal Welfare

UPDATE: Clouded Leopard Escapes Enclosure at Dallas Zoo. Police, Zoo Still Searching

Last year, the Dallas Zoo posted a video updating people on two clouded leopards it received from the Houston Zoo in 2021. Now, one of them is missing.
Last year, the Dallas Zoo posted a video updating people on two clouded leopards it received from the Houston Zoo in 2021. Now, one of them is missing. Dallas Zoo, screenshot
Editor's Note, 1/13/2023, 5:56 p.m.: This story has been updated with information provided during a news conference given by the Dallas Zoo and Dallas Police Department and the Zoo's official social media accounts.

UPDATE: The Dallas Zoo has announced that Nova, the clouded leopard that had been missing since Friday morning, was located near the leopard habitat on zoo grounds at 4:40 p.m. and safely secured at 5:15 p.m.

When Dallas Zoo staff members arrived at work this morning, something was missing. One of the zoo’s clouded leopards wasn’t in its habitat. As of Friday afternoon, it’s still missing.

Staff issued a code blue, meaning a non-dangerous animal had escaped its habitat. The zoo closed for the day to try to track the leopard down. With help from the Dallas Police Department, zoo staff are still looking for the leopard.

On Friday afternoon Dallas Zoo officials and the Dallas Police Department gave an update on the missing clouded leopard named Nova. Dallas Police Sgt. Warrant Mitchell said the department’s SWAT officers responded initially because they thought they were dealing with a bigger, more dangerous cat.

With the clouded leopard that escaped still missing, Mitchell said the department and the zoo now believe someone intentionally put the hole in the mesh enclosure that Nova may have escaped from. Mitchell said DPD has launched a criminal investigation into Nova’s escape. Mitchell said he couldn’t comment further because there is an ongoing investigation.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, these leopards are categorized as a vulnerable species because of poaching and habitat loss. CNN reported there are about 10,000 of them left in the wild across Southeast Asia, according to the World Wildlife Fund. They typically weigh between 24 and 44 pounds, according to the fund.

Last year, the Dallas Zoo posted a video about two clouded leopard sisters, Nova and Luna, it had received from the Houston Zoo, where they were born. Nova, the one that escaped today, got out through a tear in the mesh enclosure she shares with Luna, according to NBC.

In 2004, a 300-pound gorilla escaped its enclosure at the Dallas Zoo and injured several people before it was shot to death.

Harrison Edell, vice president for animal care at the Dallas Zoo, told NBC Friday that clouded leopards are different from other leopards. They’re smaller and aren’t dangerous to people. Nonetheless, the zoo said people shouldn’t try to catch the clouded leopard themselves. Instead, if you’re in the area and see a cat larger than a house cat, you should call the police.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn

Latest Stories