A small leopard escaped the Dallas Zoo this morning, and she is still missing [Update: Found! Safe and sound]

A cloud leopard escaped from its enclosure at the Dallas Zoo early this morning and still hasn't been found. The 25-pound leopard, named Nova, was missing when zoo workers arrived this morning, according to NBC News, prompting the zoo to shut down for the day.

"We have an ongoing situation at the Zoo right now with a Code Blue — that is a non-dangerous animal that is out of its habitat. One of our clouded leopards was not in its habitat when the team arrived this morning and is unaccounted for at this time," the zoo tweeted this morning.


The zoo identified the missing clouded leopard as Nova and said she escaped her habitat through a tear in the mesh enclosure she shares with her sister Luna. Both cats were brought to the Dallas Zoo in 2021 after being raised at the Houston Zoo, according to our partners at The Dallas Morning News.

Harrison Edell, vice president for animal care at the Dallas Zoo, said Friday morning that clouded leopards are dramatically different animals from other leopards. They are much smaller, weigh about 30 pounds and pose no danger to people.

Edell said while Nova could be scared, it's most likely that she climbed a tree to stay out of the way, hunt squirrels and birds and hope to not be noticed.

Because it is winter and there are far fewer leaves on the trees, Edell said it should make finding Nova easier. While staffers are looking into trees from the ground, using binoculars, clouded leopards are very good at staying hidden. He added that the Dallas Police are assisting in the search, looking at treetops with drones equipped with infrared technology.

Although zoo officials believe she is still hiding somewhere on the grounds, they do caution people not to approach or handle the non-aggressive leopard if she is found outside the zoo. They also suggest bringing in any outdoor pets.

"To set some minds at ease, if she has made her way off-grounds, this animal isn't a greater risk for pets than animals native to North Texas that roam our neighborhoods, but if you feel more comfortable bringing pets inside, please do," the zoo tweeted at 1:05pm.

UPDATE 4:23 PT — Nova, the cloud leopard, was found uninjured in an area of the zoo dense with trees at around 4:40pm MT. According to NBCDFW: "During a news conference Friday afternoon Dallas Police said that they had opened a criminal investigation into the cat's disappearance after saying her enclosure appeared to have been cut rather than being torn open by the animal. Police did not speculate further on who would have cut the habitat or why." The zoo will reopen Saturday.