Hundreds of zoo guests have sought refuge inside buildings as staff of a Salt Lake City zoo search for a leopard that escaped its enclosure Tuesday morning.
It happened while school was out for summer and the zoo was enjoying its peak season.
The 4-year-old animal at Hogle Zoo in Utah — a female rare Amur leopard named Zeya — was found an hour later as she was sleeping on a high beam in a public zone situated up to 2 feet from her exhibit, according to zoo spokesperson Erica Hansen.
There was no human or animal reported hurt or injured during the leopard’s brief freedom.
“Our staff moved very quickly and calmly and got all guests to indoor facilities," Hansen said, adding that they are still investigating how the large cat, which was given anesthesia, managed to escape her cage.
KUTV reporter Chris Jones was in the zoo with his wife and small son when the incident happened at about 9:30 a.m. and they had to be gathered inside a bathroom while authorities were tracking the leopard.
“It was relatively sparsely populated, but there were a good amount of people there,” he told his CBS-affiliated network.
News of an animal roaming free caused quite a stir on social media yet was dealt with calmly by the zoo visitors, according to reports.
Hansen said that it was a rare occasion of animals getting loose at their zoo, recalling a similar incident a couple of years ago during Mother’s Day when a certain wolf escaped its enclosure.
The Department of Agriculture last inspected Hogle Zoo back on May 3, finding no violation. The zoo confirmed on its Twitter account last June 7 that the leopard and guests alike are all safe, and they will soon release information from their investigation.
The incident comes more than a week after a young boy fell into gorilla Harambe’s enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. It sparked debates on zoo safety and emergency measures as the animal was gunned to death while the toddler was brought to the hospital for notable yet non-life threatening injuries.