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Leopard Killed By Jaguar at Zoo

October 25, 1997 GMT

MONROE, La. (AP) _ It was a cat fight with teeth and tragedy.

A jaguar escaped from a cage and killed a rare snow leopard in another pen before officials at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo were able to recapture it.

Zoo director Jake Yelverton said a worker who was cleaning cages had rigged the cage door so it no longer closed and locked automatically.

``He left the outside enclosure gate open and released the cat into the outside area,″ Yelverton said. The worker has been fired.

The big cat got loose early Tuesday, before the zoo opened, and slashed the leg of the snow leopard before it was shot with tranquilizers.

The snow leopard, born at the zoo eight years ago, bled to death.

``We couldn’t get to her in time,″ Yelverton said. ``We had to deal with a jaguar prior to dealing with the bleeding of the snow leopard.″

Snow leopards are native to the mountains of Asia. The species has been hunted close to extinction because of its rich coat.