NEW ORLEANS – The jaguar that escaped from the Audubon Zoo and killed nine other animals bit through steel mesh fencing to escape.
The jaguar, a three-year-old male named Valerio, escaped on the morning of July 14 and went on a killing spree that left five alpacas, and emu, and three foxes dead.
Audubon Zoo Managing Director Dr. Kyle Burks said at a press conference this afternoon that the enclosure surrounding the jaguar habitat had been updated about 10 years ago and was considered up to industry standards.
Nevertheless, Valerio was able to tear an opening about 8 inches by 10 inches in the steel barrier.
“I’m still processing that the animal was able to bite through this woven stainless steel cable,” Burks said. “But after he did that, our best determination is he then pushed his way through the hole in the roof, walked across the roof, and then jumped to the ground.”
All Audubon workers behaved exactly as they had been trained as the crisis unfolded, Burks said.
Once zoo workers discovered Valerio in the fox exhibit, where he went after attacking several alpacas, the jaguar was isolated and tranquilized.
Two darts were used to subdue Valerio, and a veterinarian prodded the animal with a long stick after it settled down to ensure it was unconscious.
Valerio was then placed on a stretcher and taken to the night jaguar enclosure by van.
“If the zoo had been open, the added protocol would have been for all other staff to help guests to get safely inside buildings and secured there,” he said. “We use locations and drills throughout the year to prepare for that.”