Jaguar gets out briefly in Hattiesburg Zoo

Published 11:56 pm Saturday, December 14, 2013

HATTIESBURG (AP) — Officials at the Hattiesburg Zoo say a jaguar briefly got out of its main holding area before the zoo opened Saturday.

Zoo spokeswoman Christy Fariley said the animal never got outside of a secondary containment area off-limits to visitors. She said the public was never in danger, although police were notified as part of normal zoo procedures.

The animal was sedated with a tranquilizer dart and was returned safely to its holding area.

Email newsletter signup

Fariley said the zoo was open Saturday for normal visiting hours.

Rick Taylor, director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, which operates the zoo, said the jaguar walked into the secondary area — which is surrounded by a tall fence topped with barbed wire — when staffers cleaning the animal’s exhibit area failed to properly close and lock a gate.

The jaguar did not behave aggressively, Taylor said. Armed staffers formed a perimeter around the containment area and a veterinarian tranquilized the jaguar. Taylor said the incident was over within about 50 minutes.

Taylor said emergency procedures worked as planned. “Nonetheless, we had human error,” he said, referring to the unsecured gate. “We will have to investigate that and address that.”

He said there will likely be some sort of reprimand issued. He also said a review will determine procedures aimed at preventing future such incidents.