Zoo on lockdown after leopard escapes enclosure as cops search for missing beast

A zoo in the US is on lockdown after a clouded leopard escaped its enclosure – and remains missing, with unlucky police drafted in to help in the search.

A clouded leopard is native to the foothills of the Himalayas but could well be roaming the streets of Dallas, Texas, after zoo keepers found that four-year-old Nova was not in her enclosure on Friday (January 13).

Staff found a tear in the mesh in her compound but said that Nova isn't a threat, and would more than likely scale a tree and hide, or look for squirrels.

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Zoo officials declared a “code blue” to signal a “non-dangerous animal” is missing.

"We have an ongoing situation at the Zoo right now with a Code Blue – that is a non-dangerous animal that is out of its habitat," the Dallas Zoo tweeted on Friday.

"One of our clouded leopards was not in its habitat when the team arrived this morning and is unaccounted for at this time."

"Dallas PD is onsite assisting with the search efforts," the Dallas Zoo tweeted later on. "The Zoo is closed today as our teams work to find and recover the animal.

"Given the nature of these animals, we believe the animal is still on grounds and hiding. We will share updates and more information as soon as we can.

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"Our focus right now is on locating the animal."

Police are on foot and also have a drone up in the sky looking for the elusive beast.

Clouded leopards, which can weigh up to and around 20kg, don't expressly pose a threat to humans, but do have the ability to bring down, kill and eat prey animals such as small deer, goats, pigs, monkeys and orangutans.

In 2004, a male gorilla weighing nearly 140kg escaped the zoo and injured three people – including a toddler who it bit and threw against a wall.

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