Jaguars may be beautiful, but they are also one of the most badass big cats out there. They even take on crocodiles without hesitation – and they do it very, very successfully. This is something a New Orleans zoo learned the hard way on the morning of July 14, when Valerio, an adult male jaguar, managed to escape his enclosure and go on a deadly rampage.
The jaguar's taste of freedom lasted less than an hour, according to a statement from Audubon Zoo, but in that time he managed to kill six of his fellow residents: four alpaca – Noel, Micia, Alexandria, and Lil Melody – one fox named Maggie Mae, and Elmo the emu. Three more animals were injured, with Copper the fox and Daisy the alpaca sadly joining their friends in the great big nature reserve in the sky by the afternoon of Sunday, July 15. The last attack victim, a fox named Rusty, is reported to be recovering under a team of veterinarians.
The loss of Daisy is especially poignant as she was Audubon's last living alpaca, reports Time.
Valerio was reported missing from his enclosure at 7:20am ET, and by 8:15am he had been tranquilized and taken back to his "night house". Although it was not immediately clear how he escaped, an inspection later suggested that the roof of the habitat had been compromised in some way, according to the official statement. Keeper error seems not to have been to blame.
"We perform drills annually and have protocols for this exact situation to ensure that emergencies of this kind are resolved as safely and quickly as possible," the zoo's statement explains. "This is a sad day for the Audubon family including our staff, volunteers, supporters, and our community. We are offering grief counseling to our staff to ensure they are supported during this time."
A Facebook post from the zoo in February described Valerio as "incredibly smart" and a "big lovable goofball". He was born in San Diego zoo in March 2015, but moved to Audubon in October 2017.
Luckily for Valerio, this story has a happy ending – or, at least, as happy as we can expect under the circumstances.
"Nothing is going to happen to the jaguar itself," explains Joel Hamilton, vice president and general curator of Audubon Zoo, in a video shared on the zoo's Twitter page. "Unfortunately, it was doing what jaguars do. We certainly are not going to euthanize the animal over this."