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Wild cat from Port Lympne Zoo still missing after escaping its new home at Dartmoor Zoo

By Molly Mileham-Chappell

The search party for a wild cat on the run originally from a Kent has now been reduced to just four people to allow the animal to settle into his new territory.

Zookeepers announced this week that they are attempting to lure the lynx, sent from Port Lympne Zoo to Devon, by using bedding belonging to it’s mother and broadcasting recordings of her noises.

Two-year-old Flaviu the Lynx arrived at Dartmoor Zoo last Wednesday and settled into its new house at 7.30pm.

Flaviu the Lynx escaped overnight from Dartmoor Zoo
Flaviu the Lynx escaped overnight from Dartmoor Zoo

But when keepers arrived at the enclosure at 10am on Thursday to release him, they discovered the animal had escaped by chewing through a board in the wall of the house.

The incident occurred less than 18 hours after the Carpathian lynx had arrived at the zoo and he has now been missing for over a week.

A search party immediately set out and local radio and police were alerted at 10.20am Thursday morning.

The search so far has involved drones, night vision cameras, tranquilliser darts, humane traps and helicopters following track marks and positive sightings.

But instead of being duped by the traps loaded with meat, Flaviu has pinched the bait and run away.

In the latest bid to lure him back, the zoo’s manager, ‘We Bought a Zoo’ author Benjamin Mee, has decided to broadcast noises made by Flaviu’s mother across Dartmoor from a speaker placed near a humane trap in the hope he will follow her calls.

Head of the small cats section at Port Lympne Neville Buck will be attempting to record sounds of the mother to send over to Dartmoor Zoo.

Although mother Klementyna is based at Port Lympne and it is not the season for calls, zoo staff are confident this will work.

Mr Mee said: “We played a general lynx call (Sunday) night and some of our younger staff thought they heard a reply.

“We are hopeful that the noises, along with the bedding which we will place in one of the larger traps, will be enough to lure him out. Flaviu was very attached to his mum.”

Mr Mee said a tranquilliser will be used by staff to sedate the animal once they find it. He stressed that Flaviu does not pose a threat to the public.

“We will not try, at any stage, to shoot Flaviu with live firearms.”

The zoo have successfully kept Lynx at the house for eight years.

A Dartmoor Zoo spokesman said: "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."

Flaviu was born at Port Lympne on May 25th 2014 to his father Luca and mother Klementyna.

Lynx often leave their family units to set up their own territory and attract mates between 18 months and two years old.

A expert who manages the Carpathian lynx population in European zoos recommended to send Flaviu to Dartmoor Zoo who have experience in keeping lynx.

Transport was arranged and a keeper from Dartmoor arrived on Wednesday morning to collect animal.

The wild cat's sister Cosima is due to move to a Swiss zoo later this month.

A spokesperson for Port Lympne said: "Senior members of the Port Lympne Animal Department were assisting Dartmoor Zoo in an animal escape procedure yesterday.

"We have been informed that the Carpathian lynx that was transported from Port Lympne to Dartmoor Zoo on Wednesday 6 July escaped from its enclosure at Dartmoor earlier that day.

"Whilst we do not believe the lynx would be a danger to the public, we would urge that if sighted, the lynx is not approached and you contact the police immediately on 999, quoting log 252 of 7 July 2016."

A drone with a thermal camera and humane traps are some of the methods being used to try to find the animal.

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