Cheetah escapes enclosure at Omaha zoo

Henry Doorly officials said the cheetah was outside its primary enclosure but still behind a public barrier.
A cheetah slipped outside its enclosure Tuesday at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo.
Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 6:32 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium staff walked a cheetah back to its quarters Tuesday afternoon after it somehow got out of its primary enclosure.

According to a zoo spokesperson, around 3:40 p.m. Tuesday, zoo officials learned that a cheetah got outside its primary enclosure.

The cheetah was still behind a public barrier within the Scott African Grasslands and the zoo says no one was ever in danger during the incident.

Zoo officials activated emergency protocols and guests, students, and staff were taken to secure areas. All entry points to the Henry Doorly Zoo were also closed.

The 5-year-old, 60-pound female cheetah named Gretchen was in the sight of staff throughout the entire incident, according to zoo officials. At one point, Gretchen lay down and then responded to the animal care team.

Gretchen was walked back to her night quarters without further incident.

Henry Doorly Zoo CEO Dr. Luis Padilla credited the staff’s regular drills for the swift response.

“The health and safety of our staff, guests and animals is of the utmost priority to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium,” Padilla said. “No person or animal was ever in danger during this incident. This is why we prepare with emergency drills so that our staff can act quickly, confidently and safely.”

Zoo officials say they’re investigating how the cheetah managed to get out of its primary enclosure and that there will be a review of the specific area.

Gretchen was born at the Lee G. Simmons Wildlife Safari Park and currently lives in the zoo’s Scott African Grasslands exhibit with her mother and three sisters.