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Zoo confident escaped lynx will return after drone 'sighting'

Published 08/07/2016

A lynx, similar to the one which escaped from its enclosure at Dartmoor Zoological Park
A lynx, similar to the one which escaped from its enclosure at Dartmoor Zoological Park
DevonCornwall Police Retweeted D&C Police Drones ‏@DC_PoliceDrones · 4h4 hours ago An image of the police drone assisting in the search for the missing Lynx (D&C Police Drones Twitter feed/PA)

Experts hunting for an escaped wildcat say they are confident the animal will be returned "soon".

Flaviu the lynx was reported missing from Dartmoor Zoological Park near Plymouth in Devon on Thursday morning, triggering a search operation involving a police helicopter and a drone.

The zoo, which remained closed on Friday as the search entered a second day, said there were "lots of great track sightings" overnight.

Updating followers on Twitter, a spokesman said: "Hoping Flaviu will enter one of our humane traps soon, tempted by the tasty meat & be home soon.

"Our staff are working very hard around the clock to get Flaviu home so we have decided not to open today. Apologies for any inconvenience."

Children at a nearby nursery were kept indoors after the escape was reported to police at around 10.20am . Locals were warned not to approach the predator and dial 999 with sightings.

The two-year-old Carpathian lynx was reportedly traced to an area near the zoo on Thursday evening, but failing light meant keepers were unable to intervene with a tranquilliser gun.

It is thought the cat was spotted again by the police drone carrying a thermal imaging camera that had been assisting teams on the ground.

Flaviu arrived at Dartmoor Zoological Park from Port Lympne in Kent on Wednesday.

But the next day keepers arrived to find the wildcat - similar in 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 the carnivore, concluding that he had left the park.

Search teams were organised in the local area, while humane traps were baited with various types of meat.

When darkness fell, police launched a drone carrying a thermal imaging camera near the zoo in the hope they would spot Flaviu.

"We did have a possible sighting with the drone's thermal camera & will be followed up by people on the ground," the team tweeted.

A photo shared by Devon and Cornwall Police's drone unit showed the pilot monitoring what appeared to be a group of animals from above.

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."

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.

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.

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From Belfast Telegraph