Jaguar escapes enclosure at New Orleans zoo, mauls six animals

July 14 (Reuters) - A jaguar escaped from its enclosure at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans on Saturday morning and killed six animals before it was captured, forcing the zoo to close for the day.

The male jaguar's escape was reported around 7:20 a.m. (1220 GMT), when the zoo was still closed to the public, according to the zoo. The large cat, named Valerio, mauled four alpaca, an emu and a fox in nearby habitats before it was sedated by the zoo's veterinary team less than an hour later.

No people were injured, the zoo said.

It was not immediately clear how the animal got out of its habitat, and zoo officials said they were investigating.

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Audubon Zoon in New Orleans, Louisiana
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Audubon Zoon in New Orleans, Louisiana
Live baby alligators on display at a gift shop in the swamp area of the Aubudon zoo, which were reported stolen on July 4th 2012 and recovered by police on July 5th. The display's design has an open top, making the reptiles vulnerable to theft. (Photo by Julie Dermansky/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) New Orleans: Under the weather. Freddie the orangutan seems to be nursing quite a headache while lying in the sun at the New Orleans Audubon Zoo, while daytime temperatures climbed into the mid-fifties up from mid thirties overnight low. The weather may not be the problem, however, as he just might be suffering from too much partying. World around the zoo is that Freddie is quite a swinger.
(AUSTRALIA OUT) Red Kangaroos ' Shella and Anne hop round a tree blown over by Hurricane Katrina, in the Outback Center at the New Orleans, Audubon zoo. New Orleans ,Louisiana. Tuesday, September 06th, 2005. (Photo/ Ken James) (Photo by Fairfax Media via Getty Images)
Louisiana, New Orleans, Audubon Zoo, Flamingos. (Photo by Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
Louisiana, New Orleans, Audubon Zoo, Three Turtles On Logs. (Photo by Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
How do you celebrate a 7/11 birthday? With slurpees of course! Help us wish Okpara "Okie" a Happy 25th Birthday! Okie and the rest of the troop enjoyed "slurpees" filled with strawberries, grapes, oranges, and ice. #Gorilla #AudubonZoo #BirthdayBoy
Reese is serving up some major zen! #DYK Orangutans’ arms stretch out longer than their bodies? #FridayFeeling #Orangutan #AudubonZoo
The largest candid in South America, the maned wolf looks like a fox and is called a wolf. However, they are not closely related to either! Pictured below is Peach, the Zoo's female maned wolf. She is actually peachy in coloration! Loki, our male, has shorter hair and is more orange in color. #FunFactFriday #ManedWolf #AudubonZoo
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#AudubonZoo's @mcs_nola group worked for weeks to put together this enrichment project, a papier mache sheep stuffed with wool from our sheep in Animal Ambassadors. Recently, the Asian Domain staff used it for enrichment with the Amur leopards! The Magnolia group was able to attend to see their hard work in action. Thank you to this wonderful group of volunteers for such an exciting contribution! #OurVolunteersRock #AudubonStories #AmurLeopard
Happy #WorldSeaLionDay and #WorldOtterDay! #WednesdayWisdom
There’s a new arrival at Audubon Zoo! Reese, a 9-year-old critically endangered Sumatran orangutan, is settling nicely into her new home in New Orleans. Her recent move from Albuquerque BioPark Zoo in New Mexico is an essential element in a much larger plan to help bolster the population of the species. Reese joins two other females: Feliz, 29, and her offspring, Menari. Reese is behind the scenes for now, being monitored by Audubon Zoo animal experts. After this brief quarantine period, it still may be some time before the new orangutan group will be introduced to the public. Reese, Feliz and Menari will be brought together carefully, in a structured introduction process that ensures they bond socially. See link in bio for more info! #Orangutan #SavingSpecies #AudubonZoo
Bats have been getting a lot of attention lately… but don’t forget Jaguar Jungle’s namesake! Make sure to stop by and see Valerio and Ixchel after you check out the new Nocturnal House at #AudubonZoo! #JaguarJungle #ComeHangWithUs #MotivationalMonday
Typically, the first birth of any year is a big deal. For the Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife conservation partnership between Audubon Nature Institute and San Diego Zoo Global the initial newborn of 2018 was really big! Six feet tall & 150 pounds to be exact! The Species Survival Center, which is closed to the public, provides animals with room to roam in large open areas. See link in bio for more info. #SavingSpecies #MondayMotivation #Giraffe
Help us wish Feliz a happy 28th birthday today! Out of all the things we could say about Feliz, perhaps the first is that she is a mother extraordinaire to active youngster Menari. Keepers say Feliz is calm and inquisitive – and a total goofball once you’ve earned her trust. Please join us in wishing her Happy Birthday today, and in working toward making the world safer for orangutans and all endangered species. #fbf #Orangutan #SavingSpecies #AudubonZoo #NOLA 📷: Volunteer Marcia Franks
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"We're looking at every possible cause," Kyle Burks, the zoo's vice president and managing director, said at a news conference at the zoo.

The jaguar's attack on other animals was likely territorial, rather than driven by a desire to hunt for food, officials said.

"He's a young male jaguar - he was doing what jaguars do," said Joel Hamilton, the zoo's general curator.

Valerio was born at the San Diego Zoo in March 2015 and moved to New Orleans in October 2017. Male jaguars can reach six feet long, not including their tails, and weigh up to 250 pounds; the animal is the only so-called "big cat" native to the Americas.

The zoo is expected to reopen to the public on Sunday. Officials emphasized that Saturday's incident was unprecedented and assured potential visitors that there is no safety concern.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax, Editing by Franklin Paul)

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