SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH — Literally hundreds of zoo visitors sought shelter inside buildings Tuesday morning while Salt Lake City zoo staff searched for a leopard that escaped its enclosure.
The 4-year-old female leopard was found by zoo visitors just about one hour later sleeping on a high outdoor ledge in a public area about one or two feet from its exhibit, stated Hogle Zoo spokeswoman Erica Hansen. Absolutely no visitors were injured. The rare Amur leopard, whose name is Zeya, was tranquilized, Hansen explained.
The leopard is safe, stated Nancy Carpenter, who is the associate director of animal health at the zoo. The animal fell just about three feet after getting tranquilized, and landed into a padded garden area.
Hansen stated they don’t yet know how the leopard escaped. It was later put into a crate and transported to a holding area.
The reports of a wild animal on the loose caused quite a bit of commotion on social media, but zoo visitors who were inside said the situation played out calmly and orderly.
Stephanie Gardner stated she was looking at the giraffes at the zoo when a staff member told her and her family to take shelter inside the gift shop with about 40 other people in light of a situation. She explained there was “no chaos or anything.”
Steve Jones said he and his family were at the monkey exhibit when zoo staff told them, too, to go inside the bistro. They waited inside with literally hundreds of people.
“We never really did feel in danger,” Jones stated.
The leopard was reported missing at approximately 9:30 a.m. It was captured just about an hour later, Hansen explained. There are a total of two Amur leopards at the zoo.
Hansen went on to say it is rare for animals to get loose at the zoo. She said there was an incident a few years back when a wolf got out of its enclosure on Mother’s Day.
The lines outside the zoo were very long with people who weren’t even able to enter the zoo because of the lockdown.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture last inspected the zoo back on May 3 and found no violations.