Missing Dallas Zoo leopard saga is now being investigated as "suspicious"
Dallas, Texas - A clouded leopard named Nova was found safe and sound on the Dallas Zoo grounds after a daylong search that had social media invested in the mystery. Now, police have launched a criminal investigation into the animal's escape.
This may not have been just an accident or animal prowess, as the saga continues to captivate social media users across the county.
The Dallas Zoo began trending online on Friday after zoo staff found that one of their 25-pound clouded leopards was no longer in its habitat.
"The Zoo is closed today due to a serious situation," zoo officials wrote on Twitter, issuing a "Code Blue" – meaning a non-dangerous animal was out of its enclosure.
Luckily, the cat was found near its enclosure near the end of the day at 4:40 PM and secured by 5:15. The zoo said that she was uninjured and being evaluated by veterinary staff.
After looking into the animal's enclosure that she shares with her sister, another clouded leopard named Luna, they found that an enclosure malfunction wasn't to blame for the animal's escape.
It was found to be a "suspicious tear" in the enclosure's mesh.
Police say the tear in the Dallas Zoo clouded leopard's enclosure was "intentional"
According to police, the tear in the mesh appears to have been cut intentionally, per KERA News.
Sgt. Warren Mitchell, spokesperson for the Dallas Police Department, said: "Investigators had come out and when they looked at the area where the leopard was — the clouded leopard — it was their belief and it is our belief that this was an intentional act."
The department has "started a criminal investigation."
"It was clear that this opening wasn’t habitat failure, wasn’t exhibit failure and it wasn’t keeper error," he told the New York Times.
Clouded leopards are wildcats that are named after the cloud-like markings on their coats. They are, per the zoo's Twitter, "bigger than a house cat and smaller than most bobcats" and are listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife service.
Cover photo: Screenshot/Twitter/DallasZoo