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Second cut fence found at Dallas Zoo after case with escaped leopard

Police believe Nova escaped her habitat through a fence opening that was intentionally cut. A similar cut was found at another habitat.

DALLAS — Police have opened another criminal investigation at the Dallas Zoo after finding a second cut fence at a different animal habitat.

Investigators filed a case on Friday after a clouded leopard named Nova escaped her habitat. She was found safe about seven hours after being reported missing and was returned to her enclosure. The 3-year-old, 25-pound cat was located about 150 yards from her habitat, within zoo grounds.

Investigators then discovered the exhibit’s metal coils appeared to have been intentionally cut.

Zoo officials say Nova got a clean bill of health after a veterinary inspection. 

“She’s doing great," Tina Cloutier Barbour, associate vice president of animal care and welfare, said. "She got right back into her routine. Saturday afternoon she was a little sleepy. She had a big day Friday, but she was really happy to be reunited with her sister and this is all pretty routine for her and she’s doing all of the things we would hope a cat would be doing."

During a press conference, a Dallas police spokesperson said they believed the mesh fence surrounding the clouded leopard habitat was intentionally cut.

In a news release Saturday, police said investigators found a similar cut at a habitat for Langur monkeys, about 20 yards from where the clouded leopards are. All of the monkeys were still in their enclosure and police said they did not appear to be hurt or in danger.

Monday, the zoo stopped ticket sales after selling out and the clouded leopards were by far its most popular exhibit. 

“We always want to educate the public as best we can," Cloutier Barbour said. "That’s why we’re here. I don’t want to say it’s a positive situation, but more people today know of clouded leopards and what they’re experiencing in the wild than certainly did before.”

It's not clear if the two fence cuttings are related, so police have opened a separate investigation. The department is still looking into the case related to Nova's escape.

What happened at the Dallas Zoo on Friday?

The saga began at around 10:15 a.m. on Friday, when the Dallas Zoo posted that it was closed "due to a serious situation." Zoo officials later added that they had issued a "code blue" for a "non-dangerous animal that is out of its habitat." 

"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 said in a statement on Facebook. "Given the nature of these animals, we believe the animal is still on grounds and hiding."

Dallas police quickly began assisting the zoo in its search for the Nova, who is 3 to 4 years old, officials said. 

Multiple police units were on the scene, including officers with a drone.

The Zoo said Nova was spotted near her original habitat around 4:40 p.m. Team members were able to safely secure her just before 5:15 p.m. -- more than seven hours after they first reported her missing.

A Dallas Police Department spokesperson said during a 4 p.m. press conference that they believed the mesh fence surrounding the clouded leopard's enclosure was intentionally cut.  

"Investigators looked at the area, and it is our belief this was an intentional act -- and so we have started a criminal investigation," DPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Warren Mitchell said at the press conference. 


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