SALT LAKE CITY -- While Hogle Zoo staff tranquilized an escaped leopard, zoo guests were quickly rushed into the nearest building. It’s part of lockdown protocol.
The female Amur Leopard, Zeya,was spotted by a guest outside of its exhibit in the Asian Highlands around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. The 4-year-old, 60-pound-cat, was sleeping on a beam about 15 feet in the air just outside the fence to her cage.
Zoo officials said hundreds of guests had to be ushered into exhibit buildings, gift shops and restaurants during the lockdown. Those inside said it was a bit shocking at first and there wasn’t a lot of information, but many had already guessed what was going on.
“We kind of assumed that an animal was where it wasn’t supposed to be,” said Eric Jones. “From the get go when they were kind of urgency in their voice trying to usher us into the building.”
Soon information started trickling in and many took to social media to share the news. Guests said they never felt like there was any danger, and just tried to pass the time while staff dealt with the animal on the loose.
“I think they handled it well,” said visitor Anna Province. “Nobody was harmed, no damage done; the cat was fine, I like that ending.”
Hogle Zoo spokeswoman Erica Hansen said the lockdown procedure is something they practice several times a year, so staff immediately jumped into action.
She added guest safety is a top priority, and they did their best to keep visitors apprised of the situation.
“We have keepers, we have concessionaires, we have seasonal employees. All of us can jump into action, and know the proper protocol for keeping guests safe,” Hansen said.
Visitors remained on lockdown for about an hour while veterinary staff sedated and removed the leopard from the public area.
Hansen said luckily it happened in the morning when there are fewer people inside zoo.