Public warned not to approach escaped lynx as search continues
Police have warned people not to approach a lynx which chewed his way out of his enclosure and escaped from a zoo.
Flaviu, a two-year-old Carpathian lynx, arrived at Dartmoor Zoological Park near Plymouth, Devon, from Port Lympne in Kent on Wednesday.
The following morning, keepers arrived at his house to find the lynx - a similar size to a Labrador - had chewed through a board in the wall.
Thirty members of staff and volunteers began combing the zoo but found no trace of Flaviu, concluding that he had left the park.
Devon and Cornwall Police warned members of the public not to approach the grey/silver wild cat and to call 999 if he was spotted.
Children from a local nursery were kept indoors while officers conducted house-to-house inquiries in an attempt to trace the missing lynx.
A zoo spokesman said Flaviu was settled into his new house and was last fed on Wednesday evening before he made his escape.
"The house into which he was released has successfully held lynx for eight years, however he managed to escape by chewing through a board in the wall of the house," a zoo spokesman said.
"This was discovered at 10am this morning when keepers came to release him.
"A search party immediately set out and quickly established that it was extremely unlikely for the lynx to still be on site and the local police and Radio Devon were informed at 10.20am.
"Our main concerns now are for the safety of the public and for the welfare of Flaviu.
"He is extremely timid and his instinct will be to stay away from people, so we are asking the public to be vigilant and inform the police on 999 if they see him."
Search teams are being organised in the local area, while humane traps of ample size so as not to hurt the lynx are being laid out.
These will contain various types of meat to tempt him inside and the door will then close behind him, allowing Flaviu to be safely returned to the zoo.
Carpathian lynx, otherwise known as Eurasian lynx, are solitary and secretive animals which live naturally in forests in Europe and Siberia.
According to the Lynx UK Trust website, the cats vary in size from 31.5in (80cm) to 51in (130cm) in length and up to 27.5in (70cm) at the shoulder, and weigh 40lb (18kg) to 88lb (40kg).
They mainly prey on hoofed mammals such as deer, as well as hares, rabbits, rodents and grouse.
George Hyde, operations manager at the zoo, told reporters: " He is a wild animal, he's captive bred, which means that he's never hunted and he's never killed for food.
"The likelihood is that he'll be very scared, he'll be very anxious. He'll be much more likely to stay away from people and to stay hidden."
Devon and Cornwall Police urged members of the public to call 999 if they spot the lynx.
"The animal should not be approached as it could become dangerous if alarmed or cornered," a spokesman said.
"Officers have visited two local schools to offer safety advice and reassurance.
"All children at All Saints Primary School are not in school as they are away on a field trip.
"Police are also working with staff at Little Orchard Montessori School to make sure they are kept inside.
"Officers are also going house-to-house in the area to offer advice and are assisting with the search on the ground.
"The National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter has been deployed to assist with the search of the boundaries of the zoological park."
Natural predators for the Carpathian lynx are wolves and they are also threatened by habitat destruction, in addition to illegal hunting.
The species has "bounced back from extinction" but is still critically endangered in some areas, according to the WWF.