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Young Florida lion captured unharmed

captured lion

Nala escaped from zoo Monday

December 17, 1997
Web posted at: 5:08 p.m. EST (2208 GMT)

KISSIMMEE, Florida (CNN) -- Nala, the young female lion who escaped Monday from a Florida zoo, was recaptured alive Wednesday afternoon.

The 2 1/2-year-old lion, named for a character in the movie "The Lion King," was spotted by a search helicopter in a cypress swamp adjacent to the zoo, not far from busy Florida Highway 192 and about 100 yards from a hotel. The helicopter crew then guided searchers, who cornered the cat and shot her with three tranquilizer darts.

Searchers then carried a groggy Nala on a stretcher to the back of a pickup truck for the trip home. Despite spending more than two days on the run, she was in "good shape," according to Capt. Gary Seltz of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.

Nala escaped from JungleLand, a 7-acre zoo near Kissimmee, Monday as handlers were fixing her cage, which had flooded after heavy rains.

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  • Raised in captivity, Nala had been declawed and was described as very sociable with humans. But the lion, who weighs 450 pounds, still has fangs, and her escape in an area that is home to numerous tourist hotels and attractions raised concern.

    Area residents and tourists were put on alert and were asked not to try to aid in the lion's recapture.

    During her two days in the wild, Nala was spotted several times and even tried to return to her cage at JungleLand Tuesday. But the animal -- agitated and spooked -- kept slipping away into swamps before searchers could get close enough to capture her.

    Wednesday, wildlife officials asked news helicopters to stay clear of the search area because the noise was scaring the animal.

    JungleLand spokeswoman Cindy Potter said the park was flooded with calls from people who had seen armed searchers on television and were afraid Nala would be shot. However, she said searchers were only carrying tranquilizer guns.


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