NEW ORLEANS — Animal instinct can’t be caged.
A 3-year-old jaguar escaped its enclosure at a Louisiana Zoo and rampaged through the nearby habitats of several other animals, killing four alpaca, an emu and a fox, before being sedated with a tranquilizer dart.
The male jaguar, named Valerio, got out of its habitat at around 7:20 a.m. Saturday morning, officials at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans said, and was on the loose for about an hour before zookeepers were able to stop him.
“Our animals are our family. We are devastated by this loss,” the zoo said in a statement. The zoo was closed Saturday while officials conducted an investigation.
The zoo said they believe the wild cat got out of its habitat through a break in its roof. A second jaguar living in the enclosure — a female named Ix Chel — remained in a separate indoor habitat during the incident.
After Valerio got out, he killed the alpaca named Noel, Micia, Alexandria and Lil Melody, as well as a fox named Maggie May and an emu named Elmo. Another alpaca named Daisy and two foxes named Copper and Rusty, were injured but survived.
The zoo said that veterinarians responded immediately after Valerio broke free, but it took some time to prepare the tranquilizers and to get a good line of sight to dart the cat. Once darted, Valerio was sedated within minutes. The cat was moved to a secure location at the zoo and was in good health.
“Nothing is going to happen to the jaguar itself. Unfortunately, it was doing what jaguars do and we are not going to euthanize the jaguar over this,” said Joel Hamilton, the zoo’s vice president.
Valerio was born in March 2015 at San Diego Zoo and moved to Audubon Zoo in New Orleans last October.