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Escaped Lion Eludes Searchers

December 17, 1997

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) _ Nala, the 450-pound lion that escaped from a roadside zoo near Disney World, wants to go back to her cage but is agitated and spooked, zoo officials say.

The full-grown female lion was spotted several times by helicopter and on the ground Tuesday by wildlife officers trying to safely capture her. Each time, she managed to get away.

At one time she was next to a fence enclosing the seven-acre JungeLand Zoo.

``She’s very close to the perimeter. She’s ready to go home,″ said Kathy Bacon, JungleLand’s marketing director.

The lion escaped Monday from JungleLand Zoo while her handlers tried to fix her cage to raise her above flooded ground. Nala, named after a character in the Disney movie ``The Lion King,″ ran into a wooded swamp behind the zoo. The swamp is surrounded by hotels, restaurants and expensive homes in a popular tourist district.

To encourage her to return, zoo workers Tuesday night lowered an eight-foot high fence surrounding the property and placed food in her open cage.

Residents and tourists in the area were put on alert, but officials described the 2 1/2-year-old lioness as hand-raised, declawed and very sociable.

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