Jaguar Escapes New Orleans Zoo Enclosure, Kills At Least Seven Other Animals Before Capture

By Tom McKay on at

A three-year-old male jaguar named Valerio escaped its enclosure at New Orleans’ Audubon Zoo on Saturday and was successfully sedated and captured, but not before it managed to maul and kill several alpacas, an emu, and a fox, CNN reported.

According to CNN, zoo staff reported seeing Valerio outside his enclosure at around 7am local time, after which a team of veterinarians were able to sedate the jaguar and return him to safety. No humans were injured but the zoo did close for staff to take an emotional breather, CNN wrote:

The zoo was closed Saturday but said it will reopen Sunday.

“We care for these animals every day,” [Audubon Zoo vice president and managing director Kyle Burks] said. “We closed the zoo today to help our team mourn.”

According to the Times-Picayune, all five alpacas from the zoo’s all-female herd kept within the Jaguar Jungle complex have died, while two foxes are injured but have survived. The first fox, named Copper, is in critical condition, but its counterpart Rusty is in better shape. The paper reported that a preliminary investigation found evidence that Valerio’s enclosure had a “compromised” roof and that the incident was not the result of keeper error, though a full investigation is pending.

The Mercury News reported that Valerio’s behaviour is not atypical of jaguars, which are highly aggressive, opportunistic apex predators, and that the Burks described its reaction as a territorial display with the other animals unable to escape their own enclosures.

“He’s a young male jaguar,” Audubon Zoo vice president and general curator Joel Hamilton told the Mercury News. “He was doing what jaguars do. Certainly his behaviour wasn’t out of the ordinary for that kind of an animal.”

While it’s worth emphasising again that no humans were harmed, the Jaguar Jungle complex is home to a children’s play area, and accidents of this nature are statistically inevitable when housing predatory animals. Instances of animals escaping or unauthorised humans entering their enclosures tend to be rare, though, according to the AP. [CNN]