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Animal escapes from Puerto Rican zoo, delighting and terrifying residents in nearby town

Syra Ortiz-Blanes, The Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

The Mayagüez Zoo is home to around 250 animals, including lions, elephants, hippopotamuses, monkeys, snakes, birds and lemurs. In December 2020, the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved $6.2 million for the wildlife park to undergo storm repairs.

Employees maintained a "constant monitoring" of the aoudad exhibit, said Gerardo Hernández, Undersecretary of National Parks. He added that measures have been taken to patch up Rayo Veloz's escape hatch.

Now a team of professionals trained to capture animal escapees is searching for Rayo Veloz, setting traps and prepared to aim rifles that contain tranquilizer darts.

"They have been placing a series of cages that have sensors," Hernández said. "Food and water are put in them. There are no active streams in that area. Therefore we understand that at some point he will try to find water."

Emergency management officials have also sought Rayo Veloz out with drones.

It is not the first time an animal in the Mayagüez Zoo pulls off a Houdini act. In 2013, a female chimpanzee named Mara broke free from her exhibition, according to local media.


People have been advised to stay far away from the animal, and to call authorities immediately should they spot him. Despite his intimidating size, he appears to be nervous following his jailbreak. Rayo Veloz, who is not adept at city living, got stuck between a car and a wall and broke a window as he attempted to squeeze through. He also scraped the vehicle with his horns.

"The person has received guidance about the claims process," Hernández said.

Mayagüezanos and Puerto Ricans across the island have taken to social media to chronicle sightings and to crack jokes of the escaped animal.

In one video where Rayo Veloz is walking down a paved path, an off-camera woman is heard telling her dad to try to bring him inside while officials come grab him.


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