UPDATE: Dallas Zoo has announced that they found Nova on the grounds of the zoo near her original habitat around 4:40 p.m. on Friday.
Zoo officials said that Nova, the clouded leopard, appears uninjured and she’s being evaluated by veterinarians.
DALLAS (KFDX/KJTL) — Officials with the Dallas Zoo announced on Friday morning the zoo is closed after staff members discovered a clouded leopard was not in its habitat this morning.
Dallas Police Sgt. Warren Mitchell said they have begun a criminal investigation since it appears that the animal’s enclosure was deliberately cut open, according to NBCDFW.
NBCDFW reported that zoo officials are still searching for the leopard in the park but are working with authorities in the event that she’s been taken.
The announcement of the zoo’s closure was made on Twitter at 10:20 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 13. Officials initially said the closure was due to a “serious situation.”
According to a statement from the Dallas Zoo on Twitter, the ongoing situation is a “Code Blue”, meaning a non-dangerous animal is out of its habitat. Officials said the clouded leopard was not in its habitat when the team arrived at the zoo this morning and remains unaccounted for.
The clouded leopard named Nova is said to have escaped through a whole in the mesh surrounding the enclosure it shares with its sister Luna, according to NBCDFW.
According to Harrison Edell, vice president for animal care at the Dallas Zoo, clouded leopards are much smaller than a normal leopard and pose no threat to people.
“If you happen to see a cat that is bigger than a house cat, smaller than a bobcat, we’d love a heads up. And photos are always helpful too to make sure that we know what we’re looking at. So if people have the opportunity to snap a photo of a cat that looks bigger than usual we’ll take any tip we can get,” Edell said.
The Dallas Police Department is onsite and assisting Dallas Zoo staff with the search effort. Zoo officials said they believe the clouded leopard is still on the grounds.
According to KXAS, officials with the Dallas Police Department said SWAT is also on the scene at the Dallas Zoo.
A press conference with Dallas Zoo officials is expected around 11:30 a.m.