A 3-year-old jaguar at a New Orleans zoo chewed through the woven stainless steel fencing on the roof of his enclosure, creating a hole big enough for him to escape and kill nine animals during a weekend rampage, officials said Tuesday.
The jaguar, named Valerio, was sedated by Audubon Zoo staff after he was discovered out of his habitat. Six animals — four alpacas, a fox and an emu — were pronounced dead immediately after the attack. Another alpaca and two foxes later died as a result of their injuries. The staff stopped the attack by shooting Valerio twice with the strongest tranquilizers they had on hand.
Audubon Zoo officials said Tuesday the staff was shocked to see the jaguar was able to bite through the steel fencing to create the 8-by-10-inch hole.
"I'm still processing that the animal was able to bite through this woven stainless steel cable," Kyle Burks, vice president and managing director of Audubon Zoo and Park, said during a news conference.
Burks said the jaguar’s habitat in the zoo’s “Jaguar Jungle” area will remain closed as officials replace the roof with stronger material to prevent another deadly escape. The zoo did not say what type of material it would be.
"I'm really proud of our team's emergency response to this and our effort to make sure it doesn't happen again," Burks said.
Officials are also considering adding more security cameras.
Burks also said the jaguar will not be euthanized.
"[The jaguar and the animals killed were] as much a part of our family as our human family members are," Burks said.