A jaguar that killed nine other animals during a weekend escape from its habitat at New Orleans' Audubon Zoo is believed to have bitten through a steel-cable barrier that forms the roof of its habitat, the zoo's managing director said Tuesday. Kyle Burks told reporters the jaguar apparently slipped through the resulting gap, estimated to be about 8 inches by 10 inches, per the AP. The interlocking steel cables over the habitat meet Association of Zoos and Aquariums guidelines but zoo officials are now looking for stronger materials, Burks said. Meanwhile, the jaguar exhibit will remain closed. Three foxes, five alpacas and an emu died as a result of attacks by the 3-year-old jaguar named Valerio. No people were hurt. The animal was tranquilized and was safely removed less than an hour after an employee discovered it was out early Saturday, before the zoo's opening time.
But Burks says officials don't know how long it roamed free before the escape was discovered. Had the escape occurred when the zoo was opened, Burks said, staffers would have implemented plans to usher visitors into secure buildings. He also said there is an outer perimeter fence, designed to keep animals from getting off the zoo grounds, that meets the accrediting organization's standards. Pressed by reporters, he said it's "conceivable" that the cat might have been able to eventually breach an outer perimeter and escape the zoo. But he stressed that the staff is trained to prevent such an occurrence. US Department of Agriculture officials have inspected the zoo since the escape. Valerio was examined and found to be in good health. The big cat will not be euthanized, zoo officials said, because it exhibited normal predatory behavior. (Read more escaped animal stories.)