A lynx has escaped from his enclosure at Dartmoor Zoo, just one day after arriving at the facility.
Police launched a search for the animal and a helicopter crew trying to trace the lynx’s whereabouts.
The two-year-old wild cat, called Flaviu, escaped from its enclosure at Dartmoor Zoological Park, near Sparkwell, on Thursday.
Devon and Cornwall Police were informed at 10.20am that the lynx, which is grey and silver in colour, was on the loose.
A spokesman from Dartmoor Zoo told press that the lynx will probably stay hidden for a while as he will be very frightened.
The spokesman said: “He is very likely to be very scared, very frightened, very anxious.
“His first instinct is to go to ground to get the measure of the situation and he will probably stay hidden for quite a few hours.”
The zoo said in a statement that Flaviu arrived on Wednesday night and was settled into his new house at 7.30pm.
“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.
“This was discovered at 10am this morning when keepers came to release him,” the zoo said.
Flaviu is “extremely timid”, officials said, “and his instinct will be to stay away from people”.
Devon and Cornwall Police warned members of the public not to approach the animal “as it could become dangerous if alarmed or cornered”.
The lynx was last fed yesterday.
Humane traps have been laid in the area, which are designed not to hurt the animal, who was bred in captivity.
The National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter has been deployed to assist with the search of the boundaries of the zoological park.
Officers have visited two local schools to offer safety advice and reassurance.
House-to-house enquiries are also being made in the area to offer advice.
Animal welfare groups have spoken out about the incident.
The Born Free Foundation said that it was “very concerned” about the lynx escaping, which comes shortly after reports that two lions escaped into the public viewing area of a German zoo.
BFF said that such incidents show “once again, major flaws in public and staff safety in today’s zoos”.
The statement added: “We are convinced that zoos can never guarantee a truly safe or stimulating environment for animals or humans.
“We will be calling on the relevant authorities to urgently review public and keeper safety in zoos.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) pointed to the killing of Harambe the gorilla in Cincinnati Zoo and the shooting of Juma the jaguar in Brazil as evidence that wild animals should not be kept in captivity.
Mimi Bekhechi, director of PETA UK, said: “Lynxes, like all animals – humans included – long to be free.
“Even the best zoos cannot begin to replicate their natural habitats or give them the autonomy to make choices about relationships – or anything else for that matter.
“They are invariably stressed when deprived of all control over their lives and will do whatever they can to escape.
“Whether this lynx is shot and killed or caught and returned to the zoo to spend the rest of his days in captivity, there is no good outcome for him.
“It’s time we stopped treating our cousins in the animal kingdom as living exhibits, and we can start by making the choice today never again to visit a zoo or any other institution that incarcerates animals for human amusement.”
Police advised members of the public not to approach the animal, but instead call 999 immediately quoting log 252 of 7 July 2016.