For a zoo to let a leopard escape is worrisome. To lose three of them and fail to warn residents for days seems something else altogether.
A safari park near the city of Hangzhou in eastern China is facing an onslaught of questions after it achieved that dubious feat, belatedly admitting late last week that three of its leopards had somehow absconded into the nearby hills.
By Monday, searchers had found two of the big cats, and teams with dogs, drones and dart guns were looking for the third.
A search for answers was also underway. The government put a senior manager of the zoo under criminal investigation, and officials promised an inquiry. Many Chinese people wondered how the Hangzhou Safari Park could lose several wildcats and hold back the news for up to a week, maybe longer.
on Saturday after the local government confirmed the escape and warned residents to be on guard.
The Chinese internet has been agog with updates and discussion about the missing leopards. Many were not impressed by the park’s explanation and had questions about the government’s actions, the frantic search and the well-being of the leopards that were hunted down. Leopards are an endangered species, and are found in the wild across remnant patches of western China.
“The ‘leopard hiding’ affair has exposed gaps in management that warrant more scrutiny and reflection,” Chinese Central Television News opined in an online article.
Chen Fang, the owner of a rural leisure lodge in the area of the search, said in a telephone interview, “The zoo should have notified us earlier, but at the start they didn’t own up, and so nobody knew about it.”
“If you say you worried about triggering public panic, wouldn’t someone panic if they ran into a leopard on the city outskirts?” one person wrote on Weibo, the popular Chinese social media platform.
stepping out of their cars in drive-through animal parks.