500-pound lion remains on the loose
Nala, prior to her escape
It's a jungle out there
December 17, 1997
Web posted at: 11:39 a.m. EST (1639 GMT)
KISSIMMEE, Florida (CNN) -- Nala, a 500-pound lion on the loose in the jungle-like landscape of Osceola County, appears ready to come home, but may be too spooked or agitated to return to her cage.
"We were within 10 feet of her yesterday," Cynthia Potter, a spokeswoman for JungleLand Zoo from which Nala escaped, said on Wednesday. "It's the terrain that's not working. Wet weather has turned the terrain into a swamp and she's more mobile than we bipeds."
Named after a character in "The Lion King," the lioness ran away from the roadside zoo on Monday while her handlers were fixing her cage.
The full-grown lion was spotted six times by helicopter and on the ground Tuesday by wildlife officers trying to safely capture her, but heavy vegetation prevented rescuers from hitting her with tranquilizer darts.
"We know that she is very close to the perimeter fencing. Late yesterday afternoon she made several attempts to get back into the park area," Kathy Bacon, another JungleLand spokeswoman, said Wednesday. "We dropped about 20 feet of the perimeter fencing to the ground so that it would help her get back inside. We had hoped that when some of the helicopter activity stopped she would come in last night but we weren't that lucky."
( 119K/10 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
After sightings on Tuesday, wildlife officials continue the search
Searchers from the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission and from the JungleLand park completed a sweep of the perimeter of the animal park overnight, but found no sign of the lion.
Bacon said that, after conducting a sweep of the park's perimeter around 3 a.m., searchers believed the lion had bedded down for the night.
The search resumed for Nala Wednesday morning.
On Monday, agitated after heavy rains flooded her cage, the lion escaped as handlers were moving her to a dry cage and ran into a wooded swamp behind the zoo. The swamp is surrounded by hotels, restaurants and expensive homes in a popular tourist district.
Nala's last known meal was on Monday. To encourage her return, zookeepers on Tuesday placed a hefty portion of Zoopreme, a meat mixture enhanced with vitamins for carnivores, in her cage.
When asked if she is worried about the possibility of lion poachers or other non-experts attempting to capture Nala, Bacon replied, "We are not considering that at this time."
Residents and tourists in the area have been put on alert, but officials have described the 2 1/2-year-old lion as hand-raised, declawed and very sociable. However, she still has her fangs.