When she got word of a leopard on the loose at the zoo in Salt Lake City, Katie Boender ducked into the nearest building with her group of preschool students: a bathroom. They spent the next 30 minutes holed up there as an emergency team tranquilized the rare animal that escaped from an enclosure Tuesday morning, the AP reports. The big cat was perched close to home, sleeping on a wooden support beam right above where people would have clustered to watch her. A visitor spotted the 4-year-old female shortly after the Hogle Zoo opened, a zoo spokeswoman says. After zookeepers raised the alarm, workers communicating on radios fanned out to shoo visitors to the nearest buildings.
The animal left visible claw marks on the wooden perch as she hung on briefly before the dart took full effect, but after she was sedated, she was transported quickly to a back room. No one was hurt, and Zeya, a critically endangered Amur leopard, is expected to be fine after the tranquilizer wears off, says the associate director of animal health at the zoo. Officials are investigating how Zeya managed to escape the tall steel-grade mesh that surrounds the top and sides of her enclosure. It's not clear how long she was out, but zoo staff saw her inside the enclosure at about 7am and the escape was reported more than two hours later. (Authorities decided not to file charges in the controversial death of a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo.)