New Orleans,
09:37 AM

Tragic Incident at Audubon Zoo

UPDATE: August 3, 2018, 5:20 p.m.

Audubon Zoo staff have concluded the research into the redesign of Valerio’s exhibit. After careful review, vendors are being selected for the project. Due to manufacturing time and the installation process, it will be a few months before the exhibit is complete. The jaguar habitat will be updated, using material with a larger gauge size of stainless steel cable and decreased spacing between the cable.

Both Valerio and the female jaguar, Ix Chel remain separated in their respective behind the scenes areas. Jaguars are naturally solitary animals. The pair did not share space prior to the incident, but as always remain under excellent care of the Audubon Zoo animal staff.

UPDATE: July 17, 5:40 p.m.

USDA issues report following inspection of Audubon Zoo jaguar habitat and found the exhibit compliant to regulations.

UPDATE: July 17, 1 p.m.

UPDATE: July 16, 5:45 p.m.

A press conference is scheduled tomorrow, July 17 at 1 p.m at Audubon Zoo.

UPDATE: July 16, 1:35 p.m.

Our initial findings have pointed to the break in the stainless steel cable barrier on the roof of the exhibit that potentially allowed enough space for the jaguar to escape. This is our initial finding but we are still doing an investigation.

We have inspected our other large carnivore exhibits and found nothing of concern. Once we have completed our thorough investigation, we will make improvements to the exhibit. Our jaguars are being housed behind the scenes in a secure night house until our investigation has concluded and repairs are made. We do not currently have a timeline of when the exhibit will reopen.

UPDATE: July 16, 10:15 a.m.

We are sad to announce that Rusty, our fox who was being treated by veterinarians following the attack by our male jaguar, became critical last evening and despite best efforts, passed away this morning. The outpouring of community support is helping our staff through this devastating time, especially those who care for our animals. A memorial has been started in the front of the Zoo by caring members of the community. We encourage those who want to share their sympathies with our animal care team to leave a note at the memorial or share a message on the Zoo’s Facebook page. Thank you for helping our team heal during this tragedy. 


UPDATE: July 15, 3:30 p.m.

We have an update regarding the 2 foxes injured yesterday by our male jaguar. Sadly, Copper passed away today due to the severity of his injuries. Rusty is improving and under the care of veterinarians.

UPDATE: July 15, 11:00 a.m.

Our staff continue to mourn the loss of our animals. An investigation is underway and we will release information when available. Initial findings concluded keeper error was not a factor in this incident. 

As of early this morning, our fox, Rusty faired well overnight, he will continue to be monitored and treated by expert animal care professionals. The second fox, Copper, remains in critical condition. We have a team of veterinarians managing his care. Unfortunately, Daisy, our alpaca, did not survive overnight and succumbed to her injuries from the incident. Valerio, the male jaguar, will be sedated today by our vet team and examined for any injuries sustained during his time outside of the exhibit.

As well as grief counselors being on onsite this morning for staff, we will be working with a child psychologist for our Zoo campers tomorrow to assist parents and children coping with this situation.

This continues to be a sad time for the Audubon family. We appreciate the continued overwhelming support.

UPDATE: July 14, 3:40 p.m.

Our animals are our family. We are devastated by this loss. We are mourning the loss of six animals that did not survive and three animals injured (one alpaca named Daisy and two foxes called Copper and Rusty) that are under professional animal care.

The names of the alpaca that did not survive were Noel, Micia, Alexandria, and Lil Melody. The fox was named Maggie Mae and the emu was called Elmo.

The team responded immediately to the incident. Veterinarians had to prepare tranquilizers and position themselves to get a good line of sight. Once darted, the jaguar was sedated within minutes.

We are still investigating how this happened. From our initial inspection, it appears the roof of the habitat was compromised. We are still investigating, and no animals will be housed in this enclosure until the investigation and repairs are completed.

The safety of our guests, staff, volunteers, and animals is our #1 priority. We are taking this incident very seriously and working to investigate what happened to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

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.

Audubon Zoo is home to two jaguars. The female, Ix Chel was safe in a separate indoor habitat during the incident.

Valerio was born March 2015 at San Diego Zoo and moved to Audubon Zoo in October 2017.

Both animals are receiving exceptional care behind the scenes while we investigate and make improvements. The jaguar habitat will be closed tomorrow, July 15, but the rest of the Zoo will reopen.

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. We appreciate the overwhelming support and the many condolences from the community on social media.

July 14, 9:48 a.m.

A 3-year-old male jaguar was reported to have escaped from its habitat at about 7:20 a.m. The Zoo was closed to the public at that time. Animal care, veterinary staff, and security implemented the appropriate action plan to ensure staff safety. The animal was sedated and secured in its night house.

The situation was resolved by 8:15 a.m. when the jaguar was sedated by the vet team. There were no human injuries, but sadly, four alpaca, one emu, and one fox in nearby habitats were attacked and did not survive.

The animal care team is devastated by this tragic loss. Today is a difficult day for the Audubon family. The Zoo will be closed today, July 14 and will reopen tomorrow, July 15 at 10am.

An after action review will take place and an investigation as to how the jaguar escaped will be conducted.

A press conference was held in the front of Audubon Zoo today at 1 p.m.

Audubon Nature Institute

Audubon Nature Institute operates a family of museums, parks and research facilities dedicated to celebrating the wonders of nature. Through innovative live animal exhibits, education programs, and scientific discovery, Audubon makes a meaningful contribution to preserving wildlife for the future. Audubon Nature Institute flagships include Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Entergy Giant Screen Theater, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, Woldenberg Riverfront Park and Audubon Wilderness Park. Ron Forman is President and CEO of Audubon Nature Institute.