Tuesday, April 11, 2000

Zoo seeks means of escape

Cheetah indoors until exhibit area is fully examined

By Sara J. Bennett
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Zoo officials think Casper the Cheetah climbed over a rock wall to get out of his exhibit area Saturday, but they still aren't sure how.

        Workers have been examining the 4-year-old cat's enclosure looking for ways to prevent another escape. They're trimming or covering trees that could have provided access to the outside world, and they say Casper won't go back on display until his open-air grotto is secure.

        Casper caused a commotion Saturday afternoon when a zoo visitor spotted him roaming free. Workers caught the cheetah within 15 minutes. No one was hurt.

        The zoo's animal response team handled Casper's escape exactly as they had been trained, marketing director Donna Oehler said.

        Ms. Oehler said the only other escapes she knew of in the zoo's 125-year history were a goat that broke its tether in the petting zoo and a peacock that got loose on Vine Street. Enquirer archives also show a falcon flying away from a bird show in 1994.

        Casper had been on exhibit for only a couple of days before his escape, Ms. Oehler said. He came to the display from the zoo's breeding facility in Clermont County.

        In his new home, Casper lived alone in a yard surrounded by a rock wall 10 to 15 feet high and a moat. Ms. Oehler speculated that he might have escaped in search of his old surroundings.

        Casper was being held indoors Monday while zoo workers continued to examine his exhibit area. The cheetah didn't get out through an unsecured entrance, but it is hard to imagine it scaling the wall, Zoo Curator Mike Dulaney said.

        At the Cincinnati Zoo, security measures are determined by each type of animal and its propensity to be dangerous, Ms. Oehler said.

        Bigger cats such as lions are contained by higher walls, deeper moats, and invisible fences that create noise to keep the animals away from inappropriate areas, she said.


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