Around 30 visitors were at the zoo when the escape was discovered and they were evacuated as it was closed on the advice of the local council.
Zoo operations manager George Hyde said that the two year-old animal arrived last night – but was not in its enclosure when keepers came to check on him this morning.
He said: “Yesterday evening we took delivery of a new male Lynx who came to us from Port Lympe in Kent.
“He was delivered into the house into his enclosure at around 7 o’clock last night, at 7.30 he was settled into the house and he was calm and the keepers who delivered the Lynx then retired and went home for the evening.
“That’s the usual routine.
“When the keepers went to the Lynx enclosure this morning, shorty before 10 o’clock, they discovered that the Lynx had found a weakness on the interior of the house, which had not been discovered by the previous occupants – which wereLynx and had happily been held here for eight years.
“So we established that he had escaped overnight sometime between 7.30pm and 10am this morning.
“Immediately we gathered together all of the staff and volunteers on site, which is about 30 people.
“We split them into teams with the keepers and we did a very through search of the entire 33-acre site.
“The site is an actual woodland park with lots of overgrown and lots of trees and lots of places for a frightened cat to hide.
“We did a very thorough search of the interior of the park and established as far as we were able that the cat had escaped.
“The police were on site within about 20 minutes.
“We advised all of our immediate neighbours – all the farms and properties – and the police helped us out with all the local schools.
“They called a helicopter, we weren’t expecting much from it because it’s daylight and it’s a very small cat, he’s likely to be very frightened.”
He said that the lynx had not yet been given a name and they had evacuated the zoo on the advice of the local authority.
He added: “Quite fortunately we are in a rural location so the likelihood of the Lynx coming into contact with people if very slim.
“If he did, he would look to get away from those people rather than attack.
“He is a wild animal which means he is captive bread – he has never hunted and never killed for food.
“The likelihood is that he is very scared, very anxious and he will stay away from people.”
Mr Hyde also said people shouldn’t worry for their pets.
Dogs will be used to look for the animal in the search.
Jade Chennueur, 24, of Plymouth, was at the zoo with her two children and partner, Sam Trevains, 28.
She said: “I feel sorry for the zoo.
“People told us at the zoo that the animal isn’t dangerous, so why can’t the zoo stay open?
Mr Trevains added: “It’s the council that have decided to shut the zoo. They have ruined our day.”