Much anticipated return for one of Audubon Zoo's most infamous residents

Don Ames
November 25, 2018 - 12:24 pm

Audubon Zoo

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Valerio, the jaguar that escaped from his enclosure at the Audubon Zoo in July and killed several other zoo animals, will be back soon.

It's a return eagerly awaited by zoo visitors. 

Valerio may be back on public display within the next couple of weeks as crews finish work on a strengthened jaguar enclosure.

Zoo officials say the construction project has seen some delays. Audubon Nature Institute spokeswoman Lauren Messina Conrad says that's why officials haven't yet provided a timetable for Valerio's return.

It’s been more than four months since the 3-year-old male jaguar made international news after he bit through a steel cable barrier on his enclosure and went on a killing spree, fatally mauling all six of the zoo’s alpacas and also killing three foxes and an emu before two tranquilizer darts subdued him.

Valerio has remained at the zoo since the escape, but out of public view, as workers continue to repair and reinforce his enclosure at the “Jaguar Jungle."

He’ll be the only jaguar in the exhibit when he returns. The 21-year-old female jaguar that shared the enclosure with Valerio died in September of kidney failure.

Zoo officials say the animal's absence from public view has had nothing to do with his behavior, and the jungle cat hasn’t been kept hidden as any sort of punishment or rehabilitative effort.

“He was doing what jaguars do,” zoo general curator Joe Hamilton said at the time of his escape.

An inspection afterward showed that Valerio escaped by biting through the woven steel cable at the top of his enclosure, then squeezing through the 8-by-10 inch hole he made.

Audubon officials say the repaired enclosure will far exceed any regulatory requirements, laid out by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

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