Abilene Zoo-goers in search of jaguars were curious as to where they were Monday morning.
“My daughter was — that’s what she was looking for when we came and so, we were a little disappointed that they weren’t here,” Amy Weber, a mom from Stephenville who was chaperoning a zoo field trip, said.
At approximately 8:10 Monday morning, zoo staff learned a two-year-old jaguar, Estrella, had escaped her enclosure.
They found her on top of the adjacent spider monkey exhibit.
“We’re kind-of surprised a small zoo, for something like that to happen — we were all trying to figure out if it was back in its cage and making sure our kids were safe,” Weber said.
At a media conference, the zoo’s executive director, Bill Gersonde, said staff did what they had to do to make sure the jaguar didn’t harm anyone.
“Staff called an animal escape code over the zoo raise, with both veterinary staff members and members of the zoo firearms team responding,” Gersonde said.
The jaguar was darted with anesthesia by the zoo veterinarian 40 minutes after being found and was secured in its exhibit. She is now recovering from the anesthesia and appears to be fine.
However, there is no longer a spider monkey in the neighboring display.
“Unfortunately, a spider monkey who was in an adjacent exhibit sustained serious injuries and had to be euthanized,” Gersonde said.
Zoo staff are unsure about how the jaguar managed to get out of its habitat, as all doors to the exhibit and holding area were secure.
“We will leave no stone unturned until we hopefully can determine exactly what happened,” Gersonde said.
There are two jaguars in the Abilene Zoo’s exhibit — Estrella and her sister, Luna. Both are being held in holding dens until it is safe to let them back out.
Estrella and Luna arrived at the zoo a year ago, and there have been no incidents before now.
Zoo staff says the animals in their care are not punished for being animals.
“The animals are not dealt with in a punishing way for their behavior or their activity,” Gersonde said.
The investigation is ongoing at this time. We will keep you updated as more details are released.