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Clouded leopard is found at Dallas Zoo after spending hours on the loose

Leopard found after escaping habitat in Dallas Zoo
Leopard found after escaping habitat in Dallas Zoo 00:25

Dallas Zoo officials say they have found and secured the clouded leopard that disappeared from her habitat earlier in the day. The leopard, named Nova, was sighted very near her habitat late Friday afternoon and the zoo team was able to secure her without incident by 5:15 p.m. local time, the zoo reported on social media. 

"Initial indications are she is not injured," the zoo said in a tweet. "She is being evaluated by our veterinary staff right now. We'll provide further updates on her status tomorrow."

Just prior to the animal's discovery, Dallas police confirmed to CBS News that they had opened a criminal investigation into the leopard's disappearance. After the leopard was found, police told CBS News the criminal investigation will still continue. 

Zoo officials said earlier in the day that the animal had gotten out of her enclosure, calling the incident a "serious situation." CBS DFW reported the zoo was closed while police helped in the search.

"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," zoo officials said in a statement Friday morning. "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 added: "Given the nature of these animals, we believe the animal is still on grounds and hiding." The missing leopard was described as weighing between 20 and 25 pounds.

Later the zoo posted a photo of a sleeping clouded leopard on a tree limb, writing the image was  "for anyone in the areas surrounding the Zoo who may be curious or have concerns."

Nova's habitat is located in an area not far from the Children's Zoo, CBS DFW reported. It's in between the Prime Meriden Cafe and Primate Place, across from the tigers and tortoises in the northeast area of the zoo. 

"While I wouldn't put it past her to hunt squirrels or birds given the opportunity, she is absolutely not a danger to humans at all," said Harrison Edell, Dallas Zoo's executive vice president for animal care and conservation, the station reported. "If you happen to see a cat that's bigger than a housecat, but smaller than a bobcat, please call us."

Clouded leopards are from Southeast Asia. Nova came to the Dallas Zoo from the Houston Zoo, where she was born alongside her sister Luna. 

Often called the "smallest of big cats," the clouded leopard isn't directly related to regular leopards, according to the Smithsonian's National Zoo Conservations & Biology Institute. Males weigh up to 50 pounds while females are significantly smaller, usually 25 to 35 pounds.

This isn't the first time an animal has escaped its habitat at the zoo, CBS DFW reported. 

In 2004, a 300-pound, male gorilla named Jabari cleared a 14-foot wall and mauled three people. Police killed him. 

In 2010, another gorilla named Tufani escaped a holding area when a worker left a door open. Tufani never got into a public area.

The following year, in 2011, the zoo declared a Code Red when an adult chimpanzee named Koko escaped through an unsecured gate in what authorities called a sort of "bedroom" area. She was shot with a dart gun in a hallway and sedated. 

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