Chinese safari park faces backlash for covering up leopard escape with one animal still missing

The park issued an apology on Saturday, admitting that three leopards escaped and had already been missing for days

Stuti Mishra@StutiNMishra
Monday 10 May 2021 13:05
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<p>Rescuers searching for leopards who escaped from a park in Hangzhou, in China's eastern Zhejiang province</p>

Rescuers searching for leopards who escaped from a park in Hangzhou, in China's eastern Zhejiang province

A leopard continues to be missing from a safari park in China after three of the big cats escaped last week, the authorities said, sparking a backlash over the apparent cover-up.

The Hangzhou Safari Park had issued an apology on Saturday on its official account on the Weibo microblogging site, sparking criticism over the delay in issuing the information, while the three leopards roamed the streets during the busy May Day holiday.

The safari park said it was “sincerely sorry” for not announcing the incident sooner. However, earlier it had dismissed claims of an escape as inaccurate.

The local authorities have said that out of the three leopards, two have been captured, however, one remains missing. The efforts to capture the last leopard continued on Monday, according to authorities, as teams were sent to find the wild cat on foot and with drones.

The park has come under heavy criticism for not revealing that the leopards had escaped and thereby putting people at risk, even as they were spotted by villagers as early as 1 May, according to the state-run Global Times newspaper. 

The leopards roamed around the city during the busy Labour Day holidays when crowds of visitors gathered in the city of Hangzhou, a popular tourist city.

Video footage of leopards roaming in a tea plantation went viral on social media with more than four million people viewing it online, according to the South China Morning Post, while another clip showed a leopard in a residential area.

Authorities say the two captured leopards are in good health. It has not been revealed how the they managed to escape in the first place.

The third leopard was spotted by a drone early on Sunday, but ran away when people attempted to approach, according to the Global Times.

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