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Abilene Zoo Director: Jaguar ‘potentially found a spot' in exhibit before escape

By Doug Myers & Lindsey Ragas/KTXS News

ABILENE, Texas -- The Abilene Zoo’s executive director reiterated Wednesday that human error likely wasn’t involved when a 2-year-old jaguar escaped its enclosure early Monday and attacked a spider monkey, resulting in it having to be euthanized.

“For somehow or other this animal potentially found a spot where they could get out,” Bill Gersonde said in a news conference Wednesday on the zoo grounds.

According to Gersonde, jaguars have been “in that exhibit” since 1995 and that “there’s never been an escape.”

As far as the chance of human error, Gersonde said: “The facility was checked over.  The building was secured, and facilities were secured before the staff left on Sunday.”

An investigation is continuing into Monday’s incident, Gersonde said.

“…There was no compromising in the exhibit as far as nobody cut holes in it or doors weren’t left open, et cetera,” Gersonde said.

The two jaguars – including spider monkey attacker Estrella – will be held in an off-exhibit holding area until the probe is complete, Gersonde said.

PHOTOS OF ABILENE ZOO JAGUARS -> http://www.ktxs.com/499691830

“So we’re going to do a thorough investigation before we let the cats out, make any repairs if there are any necessary, and make sure that it’s safe for the animals and the staff and, of course, our visitors,” Gersonde said.

Since the escape and attack, Abilenians and others have generally been positive about the zoo’s response, he said.

“We do everything possible to make sure that the zoo is a safe, fun place,” Gersonde said. “Unfortunately, accident is in the dictionary, and sometimes things happen despite the best efforts of a well-trained staff and great facilities.”

Gersonde said zoo staff did “an amazing job” in responding to the escape.


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