A “very irritated” lynx has been captured and returned to Dartmoor Zoo after more than three weeks on the run.
Flaviu the Carpathian lynx escaped from the zoo in Devon just one day after arriving at the facility.
Police and zoo staff launched a huge search for the two-year-old wild cat, who escaped from his enclosure on July 7.
Flaviu was found about a quarter of a mile away from the zoo in a woodland area.
More than two dozen humane traps were baited with different types of meat around the area in a bid to track the animal.
Zoo owner Ben Mee said it was a “huge relief” to have the animal back, saying he had been “living in hope”.
Mee said the lynx was trapped near to an area where a lamb had been killed.
“The farmer moved the sheep away from the area and Andrew (head tracker) set the trap using veal, knowing that Flaviu would return to the scene of the kill.
“When we came back we found a very irritated lynx,” he told BBC Radio Devon.
Mee said that it was time to get Flaviu a “girlfriend”.
Flaviu arrived at his enclosure at 7.30pm on July 6, but was reported missing by zoo keepers at 10am the following day.
Two local schools were visited by police and a National Police Air Service helicopter searched the boundaries of the zoological park in the hunt for the lynx.
Dartmoor Zoo said at the time that the lynx would be “very scared, very frightened”.
Devon and Cornwall Police warned members of the public not to approach the animal “as it could become dangerous if alarmed or cornered”.
Police reacted to the news that the lynx had been caught with a smiley emoji on Twitter.
The lynx’s escape sparked concern from animal welfare groups at the time.
The Born Free Foundation said that such incidents show “once again, major flaws in public and staff safety in today’s zoos”.
BFF’s 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.”
Mimi Bekhechi, director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) UK, said the escaped proved that “lynxes, like all animals – humans included – long to be free”.
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