A jaguar escaped an enclosure at a New Orleans zoo Saturday and killed six animals before he was recaptured.
The 3-year-old male jaguar, Valerio, killed four alpacas, an emu and a fox in nearby habitats at the Audubon Zoo. An alpaca and two foxes were injured in the attack and are currently being cared for, zoo officials said. Officials believe it’s the most serious incident the zoo has experienced in its 100-year history.
The facility was shut down as the staff dealt with the incident, but it’s scheduled to reopen Sunday.
“This is a devastating loss for our team. We care for these animals every day,” the zoo’s managing director, Kyle Burks, said Saturday at a press conference. “We closed the zoo today to help our team mourn.”
Grief counselors have been brought in to help the staff deal with the loss.
Valerio was sedated and returned to confinement in the animal’s night quarters without incident. That was about an hour after he was first spotted roaming free early Saturday morning, before the zoo was open to the public. He was unharmed.
The animal will not be euthanized, officials said. Valerio is a “normal jaguar ... doing what jaguars do,” said zoo general curator Joel Hamilton. The jaguar apparently didn’t eat any of the animals; the attacks were likely part of territorial aggression, Hamilton said.
Zoo officials are launching an investigation into what occurred. Staff members believe the jaguar may have slipped through a compromised section of his enclosure’s roof.
“The safety of our guests and our staff and our animals are our No. 1 priority,” Burks said. “We take this situation very seriously, and are working to investigate everything that happened so that we can prevent anything like this from happening again.”
The zoo’s second jaguar, a female named Ix Chel, was in a separate indoor habitat when Valerio escaped.