Jaguar Escapes Audubon Zoo Exhibit, Kills Six Animals

 

The Audubon Zoo in New Orleans was closed Saturday after a jaguar managed to escape its habitat and kill six other animals before it was sedated. 

Zoo officials say the incident began around 7:20 a.m. local time when a 3-year-old jaguar known as "Valerio" managed to slip out of its habitat. 

At a press conference Saturday about the incident, Ron Forman, president and CEO of Audubon Nature Institute expressed his disbelief that the jaguar had managed to escape. 

"In over a 100-year period, we've never had any incident like this," said Forman. "This is by far the biggest tragedy we’ve had."

The zoo's doctor, Kyle Burks, said the jaguar was darted began going to sleep within a few minutes. Officials took the animal to its night holding area and "by about 8:20 this morning, he was safely inside the building." 

No human injuries were reported in the incident. 

Zoo officials say practices are in place to prevent this kind of incident happening. 

"We receive inspections a few times a year from Association of Zoos and Aquariums since 1981," Forman said.

Three animals were also injured in the attack and are currently under a veterinarian's care. The zoo's entire alpaca population were either hurt or killed in the incident. 

Joel Hamilton, the vice president and general curator of the zoo said the jaguar will not be euthanized following the incident. 

"Nothing’s going to happen to the jaguar itself," he said. "Unfortunately, it was doing what jaguars do. We are looking to investigate everything that happened and to prevent anything like this from ever happening again."

The 58-acre Audubon Zoo in New Orleans is 100 years old and houses up to 2,000 animals. An internal investigation into how the jaguar escaped out of its habitat has been opened. 

Normal operations at the zoo restarted Sunday morning at 10 a.m.

Photo: Audubon Zoo

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