CHINA / SOCIETY
Safari park under fire for concealing escape of three leopards for suspected a week
Published: May 09, 2021 07:55 PM
One of the recaptured juvenile leopards. Photo: screenshot of video by yidianzixun.com

One of the recaptured juvenile leopards. Photo: screenshot of video by yidianzixun.com



The Hangzhou Safari Park is under fire for concealing the escape of three leopards which many said had posed great danger to local residents and throngs of tourists during the just concluded May Day holidays.

After receiving reports from the public on Friday, local police and rescue teams went all-out in the hunt, and they found and recaptured two juvenile leopards on Saturday. In the early hours of Sunday, a third juvenile leopard was spotted by a drone. But when the rescuers slowly approached from the outside, the leopard fled.

"Its general range has been determined," said a rescuer on the scene. "The search will continue after dawn."

The search for the third leopard was still ongoing as of press time.

The escaped leopards had been spotted by nearby villagers as early as May 1, and they were reported to local police on Friday, but the Hangzhou Safari Park had neither reported the situation nor alerted the public until Saturday. When asked by the media about the escaped leopards earlier on Saturday, the Park even denied any connection to the incident. The park's attempt to conceal the incident sparked a public outcry.

The park apologized for delaying the announcement on Saturday afternoon.

"We are deeply sorry for delaying the announcement. We thought juvenile leopards are weak and will not pose a great danger, so we decided not to announce their escape to avoid causing public panic," read the park's apology. 

Netizens did not buy the apology, especially considering that this incident occurred during the May Day holiday. Hangzhou, one of the country's most popular tourist cities, received millions of travelers on this hottest holiday, and the park's move to conceal the escape could have potentially posed a great risk.

"The park's move was completely irresponsible," a netizen wrote on Sina Weibo. "The management and emergency procedures were perplexing."

The Xinhua News Agency also pointed out on Saturday that the managerial loopholes of concealment and misrepresentation were more dangerous than the leopards at large.

"A fierce beast at large can easily cause casualties, even if it is a juvenile animal.  The park should alert the public in a timely way and remind local residents to protect themselves," it wrote.

People in charge of the park have been put under control, according to the local government. The park announced an indefinite closure on Saturday, and a further investigation will be launched. 

It is still unclear how the leopards escaped. An informed person who prefers to remain anonymous said that the park was undergoing construction last month, with excavators and other construction equipment operating at the site, but whether the escape was related with the construction remains unclear, Red Star News reported on Saturday. 

Wildlife escapes are not uncommon, and the parks' lack of awareness of safety responsibilities and inadequate management measures are the main causes of such accidents, Sun Quanhui, a scientist from World Animal Protection, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

As for the park's claim that it initially chose to withhold the report because leopard cubs generally do not harm to the public, Sun said that such a claim is not reliable.

Sun noted, "As the management party, the park failed to report and announce the animals' escape promptly, therefore it must bear the responsibility for the concealment and delayed reporting of safety incidents."


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