Texas

I wrote a book called The Leopard Unleashed. Then a leopard broke out in Dallas.

About that leopard that went missing at the Dallas Zoo last week: I had nothing to do with it. But when you write a book about a leopard zoo escape and then a leopard zoo escape, you tend to fall into the category of people of interest.

“The zoo is closed today due to a serious situation,” the Dallas Zoo tweeted at 10:20 a.m. Friday after a four-year-old female leopard named Nova went missing. Later that day, she was found hanging out near her habitat, where she was returned, but not before her escape became national news and sparked many jokes on social media.

Zoo officials and police believe that the escape was not Nova’s idea – someone, for unknown reasons, cut through the mesh of her enclosure to release her. (Zookeepers found a similar hole in the monkey habitat, though none of the monkeys took advantage of it.) All the eye-popping emails, text messages, Facebook posts, and tweets I received on Friday indicated that I had an obvious motive: sell books.

The book under suspicion is my novel Leopard on the loose which was published last January and is based on a real incident that took place in Oklahoma City in 1950. deja-ekrit When I heard about the Dallas escape while the missing leopard case was unfolding, I was more struck by the profound differences in response between 1950 and today.

Of course, we are talking about two very different beings. Nova is a clouded leopard, a small predator weighing 25 pounds, no larger than a lynx. The animal that escaped from the Oklahoma City Zoo in February 1950 was an Indian leopard that weighed 175 pounds and belonged to a species that has a documented history of killing humans. His name was Luther, but he quickly became known as “The Jumper” because he managed to jump out of a deep hole in front of six astonished children.

I was born in Oklahoma City and I was less than two years old at the time, but I grew up hearing about the leopard’s escape and how it paralyzed the city for three days. The mood of menace, hysteria and exaggeration was immediate. “It looks like a lot of people are in great danger,” warned readers a well-known adventurer and wildlife photographer named Osa Johnson. Daily Oklahoman. “I think with horror of the people — children and old people — who are threatened by such an animal. . . . If they need me, I’ll fly to Oklahoma with my Mauser 9.3 and help them. I’ll help them blow his brains out. This needs to be done quickly.”

But the people of Oklahoma City have already taken up the cause. The Civil Air Patrol and Marines were mobilized, along with about three thousand self-appointed leopard hunters who combed the outskirts and outskirts of the city with shotguns, guns and hunting dogs. As observation helicopters and civil aircraft patrolled from the air, the children remained inside. According to Life magazine, hundreds of acres of bushes were burned, Oklahoma City was declared a disaster area by the Red Cross, and signs advertising leopard-hunting equipment appeared in sporting goods stores. Entrepreneurship was not limited to bloodletting. The department store sold “Killer” leopard T-shirts for $1, and an a cappella singing group called the Leopardaires was born. The adventurous stripper even incorporated several layers of leopard-print clothing into her routine.

In the end, none of these hunters caught the leopard. Like Nova, Jumper probably never strayed far from his enclosure. Three days later, he came home and ate drugged horsemeat that had been cooked for sedation so that he could be recaptured. But the amount of chloral hydrate in the meat was too high. The overdosed leopard fell into a coma and died fifteen hours later.

There was no citywide outpouring of grief, only relief from parents with young children and a general stifled realization that the fun was over. “In closets all over the city,” the newspaper humorist mockingly lamented, “there are some of the most bizarre fringed buckskin hunting jackets, those dashing wooden caps. . . . The shooting irons of the Civil War were stacked with the last sad caress to gather dust for another ten years.

The death of the leopard was a shameful disappointment. But Oklahoma City couldn’t let go of Lipi. He was stuffed and put on display at the zoo. His corpse remained there for decades; I saw him as a very young boy. In his stuffed afterlife, the leopard was not like the phantom killer in my imagination. It looked small and bewildered, and looking at it, I felt pity for the first time.

Who knows how much crazier the Oklahoma City leopard escape would be if it happened in our own era of heightened, resonant social media, with skies full of Best Buy camera drones and hunters fiercely competing not to kill the beast, but how about documenting it on TikTok? But the past belongs to the past. And with that long-standing leopard hunt still in my memory, I see more clearly the expansion of perspectives—particularly on animals—between the middle of one American century and the first decades of another.

In the 1950s, an animal in a zoo was like a painting in a museum: something you looked at, appreciated with whatever degree of interest or enthusiasm it justified, and then moved on to the next exhibit. It was a living being, but not necessarily sentient. When it came to Leopard Leopard’s short-lived adventures, Oklahoma City residents were vaguely perplexed, but not sympathetic. The main emotions that were demonstrated were excitement and horror. The escaped leopard was a nightmarish creature – “All leopards are cruel and cunning,” shouted one of the headlines in the newspaper. Daily Oklahoman during a three-day chase – and the person who killed him will get rid of this horror at the same moment when he captures the coveted trophy. The experts who judged the leopard’s thoughts were not animal behaviorists or zoologists but big game hunters, and the end of the story was a huge civic disappointment, not because the animal was dead, but because no one had fired. It.

On the contrary, Nova’s concern was clearly focused on her well-being: “She was just a curious child”, “Please don’t kill that poor child” and “An animal always pays for human life with its life.” mistakes or idiocy!!!!!!”

As for who released the leopard, at the moment the culprit has not been identified, and I did not see fit to surrender. But strikingly, in this case, unlike her predecessor in Oklahoma City 73 years ago, she was not the leopard at fault—not a willful fugitive looking to feast on human meat, but a bewildered little cat who was itching to get home. “Oh so many guests,” the Dallas Zoo tweeted after she recovered, “stopped by to wish her well.”

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