The Hangzhou Safari Park in China concealed the escape of three leopards for three weeks because they were scared they would lose visitors. Two leopards have been captured, but one is still missing.
People in China criticized the park for bringing the public in danger and for hunting down the animals in cruel ways.
Police said the leopards escaped on April 19 while personnel were cleaning the leopards’ enclosure. One was recaptured two days later by the park and a second on Friday.
Chinese media reported that a search team was looking for the third leopard after fresh paw prints were found on Sunday.
The park said the leopards were not fully grown and that it delayed making a public statement to avoid causing panic, but it faces accusations because keeping quiet put residents in danger.
Leopards hunted by dogs
The official search effort launched Friday has so far involved more than 4,000 people and 85 hunting dogs. Videos of the capture of one of the cats showed a pack of at least five dogs biting the leopard as he tried to get away.
And another video from a Chinese state-run television station released over the weekend also appears to show one of the recaptured leopards resting in an enclosure with one of its hind feet hurt.
“What did these young leopards do wrong to have to suffer the consequences of such serious mismanagement, and to be tracked and mauled by a search team with vicious dogs?” a person asked in the comments of the video that was shared on China’s Twitter-like Weibo. “Is this how we look after our nationally protected animals?”
Leopards, which still exist in isolated pockets in the wild in China, are a protected species under Chinese law, with strict bans on hunting or trafficking in leopard-derived products.
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