I am lion, hear me... bark? Chinese zoo accused of fraud after substituting wild animals with less fearsome creatures

Ruse discovered when Tibetan bull mastiff barked from the lion enclosure

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A Chinese zoo has been accused of fraud after a dog was disguised as a lion in a bid to fool visitors.

Officials at the zoo, which is in the People’s Park of Luohe in Henan, would routinely substitute wild animals with more domesticated species, according to the Beijing Youth Daily.

The ruse was only discovered when the Tibetan bull mastiff, which was introduced to onlookers as an “African lion”, began barking. Liu Wen, one of the zoo’s customers, explains that she was made aware of the fraud when her son mentioned that the “lion” inside the cage in front of them was barking instead of roaring.

The zoo, which also displayed rats in the snakes’ enclosure and foxes in the leopard pens, was criticised by Mrs Liu for “absolutely cheating us.”

The head of the People Park’s animal department, Liu Suya, defended the zoo’s decision to house the dog in the lion’s cage. He explained that the dog, which was owned by a zoo employee, had occupied the enclosure while the zoo’s resident lion had been transported to a breeding facility as it was a “friend” of the animal.

Yu Hua, who runs the People’s Park, added that the zoo is still being run by private contractors. Although the Chinese government stopped giving contracts to private companies to operate zoos and wildlife and parks, the contract taken out by Luohe Zoo has not yet expired.